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Best of 2023: Sports Stars Who Owned the Year With Their Explosive Performances

In a year full of historic firsts for Indian sports, these champions shone the brightest. From Virat Kolhi & Satwik-Chirag to Sheetal Devi & Antim Panghal, whose victory was your favourite sporting moment of 2023?

Best of 2023: Sports Stars Who Owned the Year With Their Explosive Performances

As the year draws to a close, we recall glorious moments in the world of sports that gave us reason to feel proud. Whether it was India’s stellar performance at the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China or Virat Kohli’s phenomenal batting in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, these victories made one thing clear — India and her remarkable pool of sporting talent is second to none.

Here we chronicle the sports stars of the year who were the reason we lifted our heads high.

1. Sheetal Devi

Sheetal Devi is the youngest female armless archer to win a medal at the 2023 Para Archery World Championships
Sheetal Devi is the youngest female armless archer to win a medal at the 2023 Para Archery World Championships, Picture source: The Better India

This internationally renowned archer from Jammu and Kashmir did not let her congenital deformity ‘phocomelia’ deter her from pursuing the sport. At the young age of 16, Sheetal stunned the world becoming the world’s first female armless archer to win a medal (silver) at the 2023 Para Archery World Championships.

While other archers pride themselves on their arm strength and dexterity, Sheetal credits her legs for this. Using her upper body and lower limbs to shoot the arrow, Sheetal won three medals in the Asian Para Games.

2. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty

The duo became the World No 1 men's doubles pair to win in badminton at the Asian Games
The duo became the World No 1 men’s doubles pair to win in badminton at the Asian Games, Picture source: The Better India

As the Indian National anthem was played at the badminton medal ceremony at the Asian Games this year, it made many Indians tear up. This was because, in the history of the games, this was a first.

The duo defeated the South Korean pair of Choi Solgyu and Kim Wonho to become the World No 1 men’s doubles pair and bring India her maiden badminton gold.

3. R Vaishali and R Praggnanandhaa

R Vaishali and R Praggnanandhaa are the first-ever sibling duo to become chess grandmasters
R Vaishali and R Praggnanandhaa are the first-ever sibling duo to become chess grandmasters, Picture source: The Better India

What’s more fascinating than being a grandmaster in chess? Having your sibling share the title! The brother-sister duo made history by being the first-ever sibling duo to become grandmasters. This after the 22-year-old Vaishali Rameshbaabu crossed 2500 rating points to earn the Grandmaster title at the IV El Llobregat Open in Spain.

While her brother’s journey in the Chess World Cup 2023 ended without a trophy, after being defeated by the world’s top-ranked Magnus Carlsen, he made headlines for becoming the world’s youngest player to reach the finals.

4. Ravi Bishnoi and Shubman Gill

Ravi Bishnoi and Shubman Gill are known for their phenomenal performance in cricket
Ravi Bishnoi and Shubman Gill are known for their phenomenal performance in cricket, Picture source: The Better India

Ravi Bishnoi’s ascent in the world of cricket was much-talked-about news for his astounding performance in the five-game T20I series against Australia, where he claimed nine wickets earning him the title of world’s No.1 T20I bowler.

Meanwhile, Shubman Gill, the right-hand top-order batsman from Punjab overtook Pakistan skipper Babar Azam to become the world’s top-ranked batsman in the ICC ODI rankings. Gill has seven centuries and five half centuries under his belt this year.

5. Antim Panghal

Antim Panghal is the first Indian woman wrestler to win back-to-back U20 world titles
Antim Panghal is the first Indian woman wrestler to win back-to-back U20 world titles, Picture source: The Better India

The two-time Under-20 world champion from Haryana was just 10 years old when she attended her first wrestling programme in the city. She was fascinated. From that day on, Antim accompanied by her elder sister Sarita would make a 20 km commute from their home to Mahavir Stadium in Hisar City where they would practise.

Intent on seeing his daughter comfortable, her father soon relocated with the family closer to the training centre. He ensured the new home had a cattle shed. As he shared in an interview with The Hindu, “The buffaloes were non-negotiable. If my daughter had to wrestle, she had to get the best diet and I didn’t trust the milk you get in cities.”

6. Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli became the first cricketer in history to hit 50 ODI centuries
Virat Kohli became the first cricketer in history to hit 50 ODI centuries, Picture source: The Better India

His wins precede his introduction. On 15 November, 2023, in the semi-finals where India played against New Zealand, billions stayed glued to their screens watching Kohli create history as he scored a century — thus making his total of 50 ODI centuries and beating legend Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 ODI centuries.

Kohli began his professional cricket career in 2002 when he played for the Delhi Under-15 team in the 2002–03 Polly Umrigar Trophy.

7. Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra is famous for his success at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the World Athletics Championships
Neeraj Chopra is famous for his success at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the World Athletics Championships, Picture source: The Better India

The javelin superstar who became the first Indian to win gold at the World Athletics Championships credits his successes to the triumphs and failures that have shaped his journey. Chopra’s gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was India’s first-ever Olympic medal in athletics and the culmination of a long-standing dream.

The next few years however were in recovery for Chopra who had had surgery on his right elbow. However, he soon bounced back, delivering a stellar performance in the Hangzhou Asian Games.

8. Parul Choudhary

Parul Choudhary won two medals at the Asian Games
Parul Choudhary won two medals at the Asian Games, Picture source: The Better India

The 28-year-old from Uttar Pradesh stunned the world by winning a gold and silver medal in the Asian Games. In the women’s 5000m race, Choudhary clinched a gold medal after a nail-biting race in which Choudhary accelerated in the final few seconds to secure the top position. 

Choudhary once again stunned the audience when she won a silver medal in the 3000m women’s steeplechase.

(Edited by Pranita Bhat)

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