On August 29, India celebrates its National Sports Day, which is also the birthday of Major Dhyan Chand Singh, probably the greatest hockey player the country has ever produced.
As a tribute to him, the Government of India has decided to mark August 29 as National Sports Day.
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In the past century, India has witnessed many glorious sporting moments. Today, The Better India will undertake the difficult task of listing the top 10 greatest moments in Indian sports.
Here they are in ascending order.
1. Abhinav Bindra Winning Gold in 2008 Olympics
Abhinav Bindra won India’s first individual gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in the men’s 10m air rifle.
Bindra’s electrifying come-from-behind victory may have happened about a decade ago, but the moment remains unmatched.
2. Cricket World Cup, 1983
Fighting back from the brink to defeat the mighty West Indies side at Lord’s not only brought glory to India but also changed the landscape of Indian sports for decades to come. The clip of Kapil Dev lifting the trophy at the Lord’s balcony remains an iconic moment till date.
3. Prakash Padukone winning 1980 All England Open Badminton Championships
Before Pullela Gopichand, Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Sai Praneeth and Kidambi Srikanth, India had Prakash Padukone.
He was the first Indian to win the men’s singles title at the All England Championship with a victory over Indonesian rival Liem Swie King, and it marked the country’s emergence on the international badminton stage.
4. Vishwanathan Anand Unified World Title
The chess genius from Chennai had already created waves by the time he won the 2007 unified world championship in Mexico City. He had won the world junior champion crown in 1987, followed by a maiden world championship title in 2000.
However, in 1993 Russian legend Gary Kasparov broke away from FIDE, the world’s chess governing body, to establish the Professional Chess Association (PCA) Championship in 1993.
Although the first reunification championship match happened in 2006 between Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik, it was the following year when eight of the best players in the world battled for the crown.
Anand finished a good point ahead of joint-second-place winners Boris Gelfand and Kramnik and became the undisputed world champion.
5. PV Sindhu BWF World Championships 2019
PV Sindhu created history by becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal at the BWF World Championships 2019 after defeating Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in straight sets under just 37 minutes.
The dominant fashion in which she won the game highlighted how far India has come in the sport, and is an inspiration to millions.
6. India win their first Hockey Olympic gold medal Post-Independence
It was a miracle that India even managed to put together a team for the 1948 London Olympics following the turmoil that Partition had brought upon the subcontinent.
However, the Indian Hockey Federation, led by its president Naval Tata, moved heaven and earth to string a team together that would represent a new generation of hockey talent and these players would go onto make the country proud in subsequent tournaments.
Led by Kishan Lal, the team included legends like Leslie Claudius, who would go onto compete in four Olympics and Balbir Singh. Defeating their erstwhile rulers England in the finals, the win brought a few smiles back onto the faces of families struggling to rebuild their lives following Partition.
7. Wilson Jones, Billiards world champion
Before Pankaj Advani, there was Wilson Jones from Pune. The nephew of Indian hockey player OB Massey, Wilson made three unsuccessful bids at winning the world championships before finally landing his moment in 1958.
With the world championships held in Calcutta (Kolkata), Jones pulled off arguably one of the greatest upsets in billiards history. He defeated defending champion Leslie Driffield of England after conceding a whopping 661 points lead.
“How he put India on the map in a game which was the white man’s exclusive preserve, the manner in which he instilled pride in Indian sportspersons and the inspiration he provided to a whole generation of players who went on to become world-beaters at a time when money did not drive the mare, his contribution cannot be viewed only from the narrow prism of the three-ball game. His deeds furthered the cause of Indian sport as a whole to an extent that was remarkable,” said Michael Ferreira, former world billiards champion, to ESPN.
8. Khashaba Jadhav wins bronze at Helsinki Olympics
India has a remarkable history of wrestlers, competing at the highest levels. However, it was Khasbhaba Jhadav of Goleshwar village, about 75km north of Kolhapur, Maharashtra, who made history with the first individual medal for independent India at the Olympics by clinching a bronze in the bantamweight freestyle category at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.
Jadhav ended up putting India on the global wrestling map, but the circumstances he did it under, are quite remarkable. He sought the public’s contributions to pay for his ticket to Finland and his kit. In fact, his college principal, mortgaged his house for Rs 7000 to send Jadhav to the games.
9. Mary Kom, Bronze Medal 2012 London Olympics
The Northeast has witnessed its share of legendary sporting legends. However, none have put the region on the map more than MC Mary Kom, the pugilist from Manipur. Her moment of glory came in the 2012 London Olympics where she won bronze. Before the bronze medal, she had won the World Amateur Boxing championships five times, but it was the London Olympics which brought her into the spotlight. Her story even inspired a movie.
10. Leander Paes, 1996 Olympic Bronze
The Indian tennis legend had entered the 1996 Atlanta Games as a wildcard but went onto bagging India’s first individual Olympic medal in 44 years.
Although he lost to Andre Agassi in the semifinals, Paes had once again put India on the global tennis map after a long gap. Well into his 40s, he continues to play at the highest level.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)