As 2016 comes to an end, India can celebrate yet another year of sporting achievement. Its sportspersons have done the nation proud with some very inspiring performances and continue to stand up as role models for the younger generation.
2016 will also be remembered as a year when women outperformed men in many sports and took charge in holding up the Indian flag. Another positive fallout has been the recognition that various past and existing sportspersons have been receiving through films and biopics from Bollywood, all of which have further spurred interest and investment in sports.
We revisit some of the sporting glory moments of India in 2016.
Rio Olympics saw India participate with its largest contingent till date, but had to draw consolation with just one silver and one bronze medal. The highlight of the global event was Badminton player PV Sindhu, who won her first silver medal losing to Carolina Marin of Spain in the Women’s final, while Sakshi Malik won a bronze in the final of the 58-kg Women’s Freestyle wrestling. The fact that the two women emerged to hold up the Indian flag against some very tough competition was a remarkable and praiseworthy achievement.
But it was Dipa Karmakar’s most unexpected ‘Produnova’ moment that won her millions of fans back home, when she pipped leading gymnasts to reach the final and missed the bronze medal by a whisker. She continues to be an icon for other enthusiastic gymnasts.
India’s Paralympic athletes came out to demonstrate that India had more sports champions in her fold than she was aware of. They collectively made the nation proud and drew attention to the fact that para athletes, too, could bring laurels for the nation and deserved the same recognition as regular champion achievers. The stars at Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were:
- Devendra Jhajaria – Gold Javelin F46
- Mariyappan Thangavelu – Gold High Jump T42
- Deepa Malik – Silver Shot Put F53
- Varun Singh Bhati – Bronze High Jump T42
India won the Men’s Kabaddi World Cup for the 3rd consecutive time, defeating three-time finalists, Iran. The achievement is even more significant since this event drew a total of 114 million viewers in India and overseas, and 20.3 million for the finals, which makes it the highest non-cricketing event watched in the country. For a sport that has had little support or attention, the viewership numbers, as released by BARC TV Viewership Database, has been a revelation. Here, it is worth mentioning that Sindhu’s Silver medal Rio match was watched by 16.7 million viewers.
In December, Indian colts won the 2016 Junior Men’s World Cup, defeating Belgium in the final, thus bringing 2016 to a close on a high for Indian sports. The win was remarkable given that India last won the World Cup in Junior Hockey in 2001.
Vijender Singh, India’s Bronze medal winner in 2008 Beijing Olympics and now a professional boxer, retained his WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title defeating Francis Cheka of Tanzania in a championship bout in New Delhi in December. This was his 8th consecutive win.
Besides her Olympics achievement, Sindhu won the Malaysian Masters and the China Open in 2016 to continue to remain in contention for reaching the Top 5 ranking in 2017. Besides Sindhu, other Men’s tournament players have also been turning out some terrific performances in 2016.
It’s been a great year for Indian Cricket.
Ravichandran Ashwin was named ICC Cricketer of the Year for 2016 and also named ICC Test Cricketer of the Year. He ended the year being ranked No#1 Test Bowler. Ravinder Jadeja was ranked No#2 Test Bowler for 2016, a feat last seen in the ’70s when Bishen Singh Bedi and BS Chandrasekhar were ranked No#1 and No#2 respectively.
Karun Nair created a world record by scoring a triple hundred (303 not out) in only his 3rd innings, surpassing Len Hutton’s triple ton in 9 innings, Don Bradman and John Edrich’s triple tons in 13 innings. He created this record against England in the 4th Test played in Chennai in India. India broke another record when the team notched up 759 for 7, their highest ever in Tests, in the same match. India beat England 4-0.
Virat Kohli ended as ICC No#1 ranked player in T20 format and Ranked No#2 in Test and ODI. He emerged as India’s leading cricketer in all three formats of the game, as he transitioned into an aggressive captain leading from the front. In 2016, Virat led India to reclaim the Test No#1 position after briefly losing it to Pakistan. He has amassed 973 runs in IPL, over 1000 runs in T20, and over 1000 runs in Test cricket. His Test average for the year is 55+, ODI average is 90+, and T20 average is 100+.
The T20 Women’s cricket team created history when they beat three-time world champions Australia for the first time, winning by 10 wickets, in Melbourne earlier this year. Cricket in India continues to remain the dominant sport of interest.
10 year old R Pragganandhaa became the world’s youngest International Master in chess. He achieved this at the KIIT International Open in Bhubaneshwar with an ELO Rating of over 2400. He, thus, surpassed Judith Polgar, who, for 27 years, held the record as the world’s youngest International Master.
Sania Mirza continued to retain her World No#1 ranking in Women’s Doubles. Her major achievements in the year were winning the Australian Open along with Martina Hingis, and Runners-up position in Mixed Doubles French Open along with Ivan Dodig.
Leander Paes is perhaps the best role model as a champion sportsperson – indomitable in spirit and fitness, that younger generation of sportspersons must strive to emulate. He is 43 years old and has won the French Open this year along with another legend of the game, Martina Hingis. Leander continues to amaze and inspire fans across sports disciplines as a global ambassador for fitness and sportsmanship.
18 year old Aditi Ashok has just been voted Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year 2016, capping a very successful 2016 for the young professional golfer. She has now received the card to play in the 2017 LPGA Tour. Earlier in the year, she won the 2016 Hero Women’s Indian Open and Qatar Ladies Open. Aditi also turned out a sterling performance representing India at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
A wrap-up on the year’s sporting achievements would not be complete without mentioning 8-year old Tajamul Islam. This young female kick boxer from J&K brought the nation glory when she won the Gold medal at the World Kick Boxing Championship in Italy this year. For someone who comes from a state where women are not known to participate in competitive sports, Tajamul’s achievement is an inspiration to all girls in India that they too can dream big and make it happen, if only they remain motivated and focused on their goal. Dipa Karmakar showed that at Rio and now Tajamul has led the away in Kickboxing.
2016 has indeed been a good year for India, especially Indian women. Way to go!
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