2018 was a remarkable year for Indian sportspersons. From the ‘underdog’ Indian football team to the dominant cricket team and the stellar individual athletes – the year was an inspiration for aspiring sportspersons and athletes in the country. For several years in the past, the country had only seen the Indian cricket team as the flag bearers for sports in the country. However, that has changed. The change brought about has revolutionized the sports fraternity in the country – in football, the new grassroots programmes and the enhanced scouting system can be seen with the emerging young talent making their name in the sport.
Things are looking good for the Indian sports scenario and the credit goes out to some sportspersons and athletes who led by example and defied odds to come out as champions. Let’s take a look back at some of the top performers of the year:
Virat Kohli: This talismanic Indian cricket skipper has been setting new boundaries – if there ever was any. His passion, determination and ‘never say die’ attitude reflects every single time he dons the Indian jersey. Scoring five test centuries in the year, Kohli took his total century tally to 25 in tests and 38 in ODI. Despite the disappointing results in South Africa and England, the one thing that remained consistent was Kohli’s performance. In the series against West Indies which took place in his country soil, the captain scored three back to back one-day centuries. It was fitting for him to bestow the Khel Ratna award – the country’s highest sporting honor.
Hima Das: Hailing from Assam, the 18-year-old took the world by storm when she registered history to become the first-ever Indian women to win a gold medal at the IAAF event. Following which, she displayed another sensational performance at the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta. In the tournament, she won a silver medal in the 400m final with a national record finish and also the 4x400m relay. The young athlete has ended the year with an impressive rank of 23 in the world and second in the continent.
Sunil Chhetri: The Indian football skipper carried the hopes of a billion and famously led the Indian team to the top 100 FIFA ranking. Chhetri has played a crucial role in revolutionizing Indian football and he continues to do so. The Indian football team won the Intercontinental cup under his leadership and qualified for the AFC Asian Cup in 2019. Another incredible achievement by Sunil Chhetri this year was he equaled the tally of the Argentine legend Lionel Messi as the second highest international goalscorer among the active footballers with 64 goals.
Chhetri’s famous video on Twitter urging fans to visit the stadium and support the Indian football team was the most retweeted video on 2018 in India and in a nation which is dominated by cricket, the Indian football captain has done a marvelous job.
Mary Kom: The ‘Magnificent Mary’ defeated Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota in the 48 kg category final of the Women’s World Boxing Championship which was held in Delhi. Doing so, she sealed her historic sixth gold medal in the World boxing championship tournament. The achievement marks a remarkable one for Mary Kom, who at the age of 35, clinched a record-breaking sixth world championship gold medal 16 years after she had won her first gold.
The Manipur-based athlete now holds a remarkable tally of six gold medals and a silver. Kom last won a World Championship medal in 2010 – a 48kg category gold after which the 35-year-old was tied with Irish legend Katie Taylor (five gold and a bronze) on the number of medals won.
“I can’t give you anything apart from gold for India”, an emotional Mary Kom said with tears rolling down her eyes after her historic win in Delhi earlier this year.
Neeraj Chopra: He was India’s flag bearer at the Asian games and he did the nation proud in the tournament. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra clinched the gold medal after recording a staggering 88.06 as his best throw and breaking his own national record of 87.43 at the 18th edition of the Asian Games in Jakarta. This was a historic win for the 20-year-old, as it marked India’s first-ever gold medal in a Javelin event at Asian Games history. Neeraj has been consistently setting and breaking records from a very young age and is one of the brightest prospects among the Indian athletes to win a medal in the 2020 Olympics.