Though 2017 saw many known sports stars achieve great success, it also turned out to be unfair to Indian sporting heroes who made a mark at the international stage but never got any coverage for it. Other than cricket and perhaps hockey, India does not fare well at other sports. We are barely able to fetch a couple of medals at the Olympics as compared to our neighbour China which tends to stay at the very top. The biggest reason is that we Indians give a lot of importance to cricket which shadows other sports demanding considerable attention. It is unfortunate that in a country as populous as India, we still do not have adequate infrastructure to produce world-class athletes.
Let’s introduce you to sports stars who though were meagerly covered, but their achievements were no less important:
Sundar Singh Gurjar:
The 21-year-old from Jaipur made up for the tragic miss at the Paralympics with a gold medal at the IPC Para Athletics World Championships which was held in London. He threw the javelin at a seasonal best of 60.28 m to clinch the only second gold medal for India ever in the tournament.
This charming Havaldar of the Indian Army is still an unknown entity in Indian sports. He was pivotal in giving India big wins at the 2017 Hockey Asia Cup and a bronze medal finish at the 2017 FIH World Hockey League Finals where his brilliant hat-trick of saves helped India make the semifinals, giving Belgium a shocking defeat of 3-2. However, he was not the first choice of the goalkeeper at the Rio Olympics as Sreejesh was chosen as the main keeper. He shot to the spotlight at the Asian Champions Trophy where he denied a last minute breather to give India a historic win.
Remember the movie Dangal? Ritu too comes from the same Phogat clan. The third daughter of Mahavir Singh Phogat, Ritu made both her family and India proud when she made it to the finals of the U23 World Wrestling Championships in the 48 kg category and won a silver. That was India’s first silver in the prestigious championship. She already had high expectations following in the footsteps of her elder sisters Geeta and Babita who got international success.
The 17-year-old who hails from Rurki village near Rohtak wrote her way into the history books by defeating Ekaterina Molchanova of Russia 5-0 to win the gold medal at the AIBA Youth Women’s World Boxing Championships held at Guwahati in November 2017. But her rise was not all that hunky-dory. Unlike Mahavir Singh Phogat who encouraged his daughter to take up the sport, Gulia’s parents were against the idea of her choosing boxing as a career. Jyoti belongs to the same category as her idol and boxing star MC Mary Kom. So this means that Manipuri boxing legend is now up for some serious competition in 2018. We hope she gets her due in 2018.
India does not boast of table-tennis as being their sports of expertise. Surat-born Manav finished runner-up earlier this year at the Serbian Junior and Cadet Open, thus taking him to the top spot in ITTF World Junior Circuit standings in October. Not that India has not had table-tennis stars (we had Soumyadeep Roy, Poulami Ghatak and more recently Sharath Achanta Kamal) but none made it at the international stage. The 17-year-old shot to fame when he clinched a gold in the singles category as well as gold and silver in the doubles category in the Slovenia Junior and Cadet Open respectively. The gold in the singles event in Belgrade also ensured a place for Thakkar at the ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals which would be held in Luxembourg.
Have you ever heard of these sportspersons? It is time India goes beyond cricket and give importance to lesser-covered sports.