In part one of this series, you read about some of the greats in the sports world who have made India’s name shine at the international level through their individual achievements.
Here are few of the younger brigades who are still creating wonders at the world arena and making significant contributions in the global sports events through their proven skills and determined efforts. It is these men and women who are creating history today and inspiring many to dream on.
Abhinav Bindra – The first Indian to win an individual gold medal in Olympics, he is name that will not be easily forgotten in the sporting world. Statistics say India has the lowest Olympic medal to population ratio (0.003 medals per million population) but at least one man can proudly say he did his best to defy this statistics.
Sania Mirza – Being a muslim, she has faced many brickbats from conservative community heads who have criticised her dressing sense and her carefree attitude. Sports critics have always judged her every move in the tennis court with a magnifying glass; lifestyle specialists have made her a supermodel overnight with her blunt t-shirt statements. But what actually makes Sania Mirza a legend is her stellar play and her winning personality. She was the first ever Indian to break into the top 50 WTA rankings and she might not be at her career best at the moment, nothing can rob her from the title of being the most inspiring youth icon of recent times.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi – At a time when Indians only knew cricket, these two introduced us to the game of tennis and to the fact that even India could make its mark at world events like Wimbledon and US opens. They are regarded as the best doubles players in the world and are a force to reckon with, together and individually.
Sachin Tendulkar – He is called the greatest batsman in the history of cricket. He is the man with the highest runs and centuries in test cricket and one-day internationals. There are many records he has created and many that he has broken. He has been playing for 20 years in the international level since the age of 17 and still going strong. Some say in cricket after God come the name of this humble man and that definitely is not untrue.
Saina Nehwal – Current world No. 2 Badminton player, she is the latest heart throb of India and the recipeint of this years highest sporting honor, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. With the way she is performing, it may soon be India all the way at the top of the badminton world leaving the indomitable Chinese players behind.
Vijendra Singh – He won an Olympic Bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and overnight, people in India were talking boxing. What is great is despite being offered hoards of endorsements and bollywood films, this boxer has remained true to his game by following his Olympic win with another bronze at the prestigious World Amateur Boxing Championships. In 2009 the International Boxing Association (AIBA) announced Vijender as the top-ranked boxer in its annual middleweight category list with 2800 points. Hopefully, his great moves in the boxing ring will keep bringing more medals and accolades to the country.
Sushil Kumar – Wrestling has been a very ancient sports form practised in India but in spite of the history of the game we have failed to truly make a mark in the international circuit. One name in 2008 however finally made India’s presence felt, when in 2008 Beijing Olympics Sushil Kumar won a bronze in wrestling. His win paved way for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel ratna Award bestowed on him in 2009 and surely brought wrestling back in the limelight.
Geet Sethi – Though he has been playing for a long time now, Geet Sethi is still a force to reckon with when it comes to Billiards. He dominated the sport throughout much of the 1990s winning many international championships and now is keen to represent the nation when billiards in sometimes included in the Olympics. He is currently co-founder of the Olympic Gold Quest with Prakash Padukone, a Foundation for the Promotion of Sports in India.
Baichung Bhutia – People knew him as a footballer and then came to know him as a dancing champion too with his reality show win, but one thing that demarcated Baichung from others is his strong and determined effort to keep the football spirit alive in India in spite of the many political hurdles. Bhutia, who has a football stadium named after him in honour of his contribution to Indian football is a tough guy with a very sensitive heart.
Mithali Raj – In a country obsessed with cricket, this is one cricketer not many know of and that is simply because of her gender. But Mithali Raj is one strong women who has overcome biases and given stellar performances at international level sometimes as good as her men counterparts. She made her One Day International debut in 1999 against Ireland and scored 114 runs without getting out in that match. In Feb. 2010 she was ranked as the no.1 batsman in the ICC World Women’s Cricket rankings.
Vishwanathan Anand – In 2007, he was awarded India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan making him the first sportsperson to receive the award in Indian history. Anand has truly lived up to his name becoming ‘vishwanath’ or lord of the Chess world by winning hundreds of championships and holding the current title of World Chess Champion. The modest grandmaster is a role model for millions.
You might have your personal favourite who is not in this list but surely a great player who has redefined a game because of the way he/she competes. Do share your sports star name through your comments.
Here is a quick link to part one of the article, Sporting Legends of Independent India, Part-1