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As India celebrates it’s 69th Republic Day, we take a look at some Indian sportspersons who have made the nation proud. Apart from putting the country on the global map of achievements, these personalities have transformed the sporting scenario in India completely, influencing numbers and numbers of people to take up sports and excel.
1. Sachin Tendulkar – Cricket
When speaking about Indian cricket’s triumph over world cricket, the decades of dominance on international platforms can be summed up with just one name, Sachin Tendulkar. It all started when a 16-year-old Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar made his Test debut for India. And it is heartwarming to know how the cricketer who was labelled as the ‘Little Master’ in his initial years, went on to take shape as the ‘God of Cricket’.
Sachin Tendulkar’s timeline of achievements:
- Arjuna Award – 1994
- Wisden Cricketer of the Year – 1997
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna – 1997
- Padma Shri – 1999
- Padma Vibhushan – 2008
- World Test XI – 2009, 2010, 2011
- Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy – 2010
- Outstanding Achievement in Sport – 2010
- Castrol Cricketer of the Year and BCCI Cricketer of the Year – 2010
- Bharat Ratna – 2013
2. Dhyan Chand – Hockey
Inarguably one of the best hockey players of India, Dhyan Singh was given the nickname of ‘Chand’ (meaning moon), owing to the legend’s habit of practicing at night. His skills with the hockey stick was at such level, that the centre-forward was also nicknamed ‘the Magician’. In the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, when India won the gold medal in hockey, a newspaper headline read,
“This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyan Chand is in fact the magician of hockey.”
And after winning the gold at the 1928 Olympics, Dhyan ‘Chand’ Singh went on to captain the Indian hockey team to win two more golds at the the 1932 Los Angeles and 1936 Berlin Olympics. At a time when an average Indian wouldn’t even be aware of how to play hockey, Dhyan Singh had become the champion of the sport in almost every corner of the world. Later in 1956, Dhyan ‘Chand’ was conferred with the Padma Bhushan award too (third-highest civilian honour).
3. Viswanathan Anand – Chess
Viswanathan Anand is a former World Chess Champion, but before that he is a chess playing Indian prodigy. Five time winner of the World Chess Championship, Viswanathan Anand dominated the world of chess for six years from 2007 to 2013. He is among the only two persons to have won the Classical, Rapid, and Blitz world championships and the only one to have won the world championship playing in Match, Tournament and Knockout formats.
Viswanathan started playing chess at a really young age of six years, as he picked up his mother’s inclination towards the game. He turned professional quickly, becoming the National Sub-Junior Chess Champion at the age of 14. At the age of 15, he won the title of International Master and became the youngest Indian to do so. At the age of 18, Viswanathan Anand became India’s first Grandmaster.
Viswanathan Anand’s timeline of achievements:
- Arjuna Award for Chess – 1985
- Padma Shri – 1988
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna – 1991
- Chess Oscar – 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008
- Padma Bhushan – 2001
- Padma Vibhushan – 2008
Let’s just put it this way, that Abhinav Bindra is the first Indian to have won an individual gold at the Olympics. Renowned professional shooter, Abhinav Bindra had put India on the global shooting map by winning the gold in the 10 m Air Rifle event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. At the age of 15, he represented India as the youngest participant in the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Bindra entered spotlight after winning a bronze medal and creating a new junior world record score of 597/600 in the 2001 Munich World Cup.
Abhinav Bindra’s achievements:
- First Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics
- First and only Indian to have held both the World and Olympic titles at the same time
- Arjuna Award – 2000
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award – 2001
- Padma Bhushan – 2009
5. Mary Kom – Boxing
Born into a poor Manipuri family, Mary Kom had begun her childhood by helping her parents in the fields. However, the girl who was interested in almost every sport in school except boxing, was inspired by the Manipuri boxer Dingko Singh, who had won a gold at the Asian Games in 1998.
Now, Mary Kom is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, where she also won a Bronze medal. She is the foremost of Indian woman boxers and a five-time world amateur boxing champion. Definitely, she has been an inspiration to numerous Indian women to take up sports and shine the brightest.
Mary Kom’s achievements:
- A five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion
- Padma Shri – 2010
- Padma Bhushan – 2013
- Gold Medal at the Incheon Asian Games – 2014
6. Milkha Singh – Athletics
Milkha Singh is a former Indian track and field sprinter, who was the first Indian male athlete to win an individual athletics gold medal at Commonwealth Games. Milkha Singh’s speed was so legendary, that the former President of Pakistan, General Ayub Khan, had given his the title of ‘The Flying Sikh’.
Milkha Singh is one of the top greatest athletes in the whole history of India, and he has won not one but numerous Gold medals in international sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. As a teenager Milkha Singh had witnessed the massacre of his whole family, following which the orphaned kid had worked up his way to the apex of the Indian sporting scene. Till today, ‘The Flying Sikh’ helps deprived sportsmen through the Milkha Singh Charitable trust.
Milkha Singh’s achievements:
- Gold medals at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games – 1958
- Padma Shri – 1959
- Gold medals at the Asian Games 400 m and 4×400 m – 1962
7. PV Sindhu – Badminton
Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is an Indian professional badminton player, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the Badminton World Federation World Rankings. Sindhu acquired international fame when she broke into the top 20 of the BWF World Rankings, at the age of 17 in 2012. At the age of 18 in 2013, PV Sindhu became the first Indian women’s singles player to win a medal at the Badminton World Championships. She also received the Arjuna Award in 2013.
At the 2016 Summer Olympics, Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic silver medal. She is one of the only two Indian badminton players to ever win an Olympic medal (other being Saina Nehwal). At the very recent 2017 BWF World Championships, PV Sindhu became the first Indian ever to win the coveted Korea Open Super Series.
In March 2015, PV Sindhu received India’s fourth highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri Award. She was conferred with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2016, and was also named the CNN-IBN Indian of the year in Sports. PV Sindhu is one of the very few top woman shuttlers in India.
8. Balbir Singh – Hockey
Balbir Singh is a three-time Olympic gold champion in hockey, and is considered a modern day hockey great, often compared with the legendary Dhyan Chand. Balbir Singh has played key roles in India’s successive wins in the 1948 London Olympics, 1952 Helsinki Olympics (as Vice Captain), and 1956 Melbourne Olympics (as Captain).
Balbir Singh is regarded as hockey’s greatest centre-forward ever. The hockeying great had registered an Olympic record of scoring most goals individually in the men’s hockey finals, which still remains unbeaten to this date. Balbir Singh had scored five goals in India’s 6–1 victory over the Netherlands team, in the gold medal game of the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.
Balbir Singh’s achievements:
- Padma Shri – 1957
- His face was featured on a stamp issued by Dominican Republic – 1958
- Named the ‘Best Sikh Hockey Player‘ – 2006
- Adjudged to be the ‘Indian Sportsperson of the Century’ by a poll held by a national newspaper – 1982
- Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award of Hockey India – 2015
9. PT Usha – Athletics
When speaking about Indian athletics, PT Usha is the foremost name that comes to one’s mind. The woman sprinter from Kerala was nicknamed the ‘Golden girl’ due to her successful attempts at clinching gold medals at numerous competitions. Hailing from a town called Payyoli, she was also made famous as the ‘Payyoli Express’.
PT Usha was first noticed in 1976 by OM Nambiar, an athletics coach, who said about Usha in an interview, “What impressed me at first sight about Usha was her lean shape and fast walking style. I knew she could become a very good sprinter.” It was right from that year, that PT Usha became a legend which would never be forgotten. Playing in the Asian Games of 1981 and 1982, PT Usha broke the national records for 100, 200, and 400 m sprints.
PT Usha’s achievements:
- Became the first Indian woman to reach the final of an Olympic event
- Became the youngest Indian sprinter, aged 16, to compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics
- Achieved a record of 55.42 seconds at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the very first time the 400m hurdles was added to the women’s athletics. This is the current Indian national record.
- Most gold medals earned by a female athlete in a single track meet. (secured 5 gold medals, in the 100, 200, and 400 metre, 400m hurdles, and 4 × 400 m relay in the 1985 Asian Track and Field Meet at Jakarta, Indonesia)
- Arjuna Award and Padma Shri Award – 1984
10. Saina Nehwal – Badminton
Saina Nehwal is one of the world’s top players in women’s badminton, and she has won a great deal of awards and championships to back this claim. Nehwal started off as a teenage sensation when she won the Under-19 national championships, and it was after this, that she went on to earn herself and her country a big name in World Badminton.
Saina Nehwal’s achievements:
- Arjuna Award – 2009
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award – 2009
- Padma Shri – 2010
- Padma Bhushan – 2016