Anahat Singh, Shiva Thapa, Ronaldo, Jeremy Lalrinnunga and more -- these 8 talented athletes are among India's top medal hopes at the Commonwealth Games 2022 being held in Birmingham, England.
Over the years, the Commonwealth Games have grown into a celebration for the world’s greatest sports persons. India, too, has grown from winning a solitary medal in the debut games in 1934 to being an integral part of the games. In 2010, the country finished third with 26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze medals.
The most awaited Commonwealth Games 2022, which will take place in Birmingham, England, commenced on 28 July and will last till 8 August.
From Bavleen Kaur, who started practising gymnastics on normal mats due to poor facilities in the stadium, to M Sreeshankar who attended the Olympics under the coaching of his father, here are the stories of eight exceptional sportspersons who are expected to make the country proud in the Games this year.
1. Jyothi Yarranji
For Jyothi Yarraji, the fastest women’s 100 m hurdler in India, a career in sports was partly due to her passion, but also because she needed to take care of her family.
Born in 1999 in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh to a private security guard and a domestic help, her life took a U-turn when her PE teacher felt she had good height for a hurdler.
The 23-year-old, who also studies BA History at the Acharya Nagarjuna University, came under the limelight after winning the gold medal at Andhra Pradesh interdistrict meet in 2015.
Later, she was coached under Dronacharya awardee N Ramesh and British coach James Hillier. Soon, she made her international debut at the Cyprus International Athletics Meet and set the women’s 100 m hurdles national record, with a timing of 13.23 seconds. Within days, she beat her own record at 13.04 seconds at the Harry Schulting Games in the Netherlands.
2. Ronaldo Laitonjam Singh
This Indian cyclist’s interesting journey begins with his name. He is named after Ronaldinho Gaucho, because he was born while his father was watching Brazil’s 2002 FIFA World Cup quarter-final match against England. His father, a CRPF trooper, took him to a sports academy and the boy was trained in swimming, gymnastics and later, cycling.
Ronaldo started cycling at the age of 14 and won gold in the men’s team sprint at the 2019 World Junior Cycling Championships in Germany. The 20-year-old is the first Indian cyclist to bag a silver medal in a continental tournament’s senior category at the Asian Track Championship. Today, he is also the secretary-general of the Asian Cycling Confederation.
3. Sreeshankar Murali
Hailing from a sports family in Palakkad, Kerala, this long jump athlete is the first Indian to achieve the feat of an 8-metre jump. Sreeshankar is ranked number 13 in the world and is the only Indian long jumper who has qualified for the Olympics so far. By the age of 20, he crossed 8 m three times. The 23-year-old’s debut international win was at the Asian Junior Championship Japan 2018, where he bagged a bronze medal.
Sreeshankar attended the Tokyo Olympics 2020 under the training of his father S Murali who is a former triple jump athlete and silver medalist at the South Asian Games. His mother K S Bijimol is a former 800 m runner. The olympian did his schooling in Kendriya Vidyalaya Kanjikode and is a mathematics graduate from Government Victoria College, Palakkad.
4. Anahat Singh
Anahat is a Class 9 student and India’s youngest athlete at the Commonwealth Games 2022. The teenager hails from a sports family in Delhi where both her parents were hockey players in their youth. She started getting professionally trained in squash from the age of 8 and travelled across the country for competitions. She got into this sport with her sister and both of them were exceptionally good at it. Before moving to Harvard University for higher studies, her sister Amira Singh was one of the country’s top-rated under-19 players.
The 14-year-old has won 46 national circuit titles, two national championships, and eight international titles in less than six years. Also, she is the first Indian sportswoman to win the British Junior Squash Open in 2019 and US Junior Squash Open in 2021.
5. Bavleen Kaur
The only gymnast representing the country, Bavleen Kaur began rhythmic gymnastics at the age of eight. She was born and brought up in Jammu & Kashmir and made the state proud by winning several national-level games. She won four Bronze medals in the third Rhythmic Gymnastics during the Emirates Cup at Dubai and fifth position in the Rhythmic Gymnastics Thailand Open at Bangkok. She will be performing in the ball, ribbon, clubs and hoop events.
In an interview with SheThePeople TV, the 19-year-old said, “One day, my father took me to a stadium and asked me which sport I would like to play. At first, I was clueless, until I saw some girls doing beautiful moves with ribbon. It was actually the beauty of the sport which attracted me towards it.” In the Khelo Youth Games of 2019, she bagged five medals– three gold and two silver. She was the star performer of the team.
6. Jeremy Lalrinnunga
Hailing from Aizawl, Mizoram, this weightlifter booked his spot at the 2022 Commonwealth Games with a men’s 67 kg gold in the Commonwealth Championships. He represented India in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires and won the gold medal in the Boys’ 62 kg category weightlifting with a lift of 274 kg.
Born in 2002, Jeremy was initially trained by his father, who was a junior national champion boxer. The 20-year-old was selected in the Army Sports Institute trials in 2011 which was the beginning of his professional weightlifting journey. Jeremy bagged silver at the World Youth Championships in 2016 in the 56 kg weight category. He then added a bronze to the list at the 2018 Junior Asian Championships.
7. Rodali Barua
Assam’s Rodali Barua is a leading black belt champion in Taekwondo and is a part of the Indian women’s team for the Games. She has been practising the martial art since the early age of 13. She represented India in a number of Taekwondo championships in the 73 kg heavyweight category and won several medals. This includes a bronze medal in the National Games, a gold medal at the 35th National Senior Kyorugi and eighth National Senior Pumche Taekwondo Championships held at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
This 26-year-old is currently pursuing her Bachelors in Arts from IGNOU.
8. Shiva Thapa
Inspired by Mike Tyson as a child and born as the son of a karate instructor, Shiva Thapa got into the field of boxing quite easily. His father was determined to make one of his sons an Olympian and this happened when Shiva qualified for the Olympics in 2012. At that time, he was the youngest Indian boxer to ever qualify for the event.
The 28-year-old hails from Assam and is employed with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited. At the age of 22, he already was a two-time Olympian and an Arjuna Awardee.
CWG 2022: A Look Back at India’s History at the Commonwealth Games, published by News18 on 29 July 2022.
Who is Jyothi Yarraji? Know India’s fastest women’s hurdler, published by Olympics.com on 23 June 2022.
A Ronaldo and a Beckham in India’s Commonwealth Games 2022 squad, published by Hindustan Times on 26 July 2022.
Father’s Day 2020: How long jumper Sreeshankar Murali’s father shaped his career – Hindustan Times, published by Hindustan Times on 21 June 2020.
Who is 14-year-old Anahat Singh? Meet India’s youngest athlete at 2022 Commonwealth Games, published by Times Now on 29 July 2022.
Gymnastics Isn’t A Sport, It’s A Lifestyle: Rhythmic Gymnast Bavleen Kaur, published by SheThePeople TV on 5 June 2019.
Who Is Jeremy Lalrinnunga, published by Outlook on 11 December 2021.
Know Your Asian Games Girls: Rodali Baruah, Taekwondo Champion, published by SheThePeople TV on 16 August 2018.
Shiva Thapa Biography, Olympic Medals, Records and Age, published by Olympics.com.
Edited by Divya Sethu