SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR
Discipline: Javelin Throw
The jewel in the crown of Indian sport, Neeraj Chopra scripted the most defining moment for the country at the Tokyo Olympics. The javelin thrower won India’s first-ever gold medal in athletics, making him only the second Indian to win an individual Olympic gold, after shooter Abhinav Bindra who created history in Beijing 2008. The Panipat-born is also the reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games champion in his event.
- First Indian to win an athletics gold at the Olympics, in Tokyo.
- Was India’s lone gold medallist at the Tokyo Olympics.
- Topped the qualification round and final.
- Pulled off some big upsets in Tokyo, defeating World No. 1 and favourite Johannes Vetter of Germany.
TOKYO, JAPAN – SEPTEMBER 04: Pramod Bhagat of Team India celebrates winning against Daniel Bethell of Team Great Britain in the Badminton Men’s Singles SL3 Gold Medal Match on day 11 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Yoyogi National Stadium on September 04, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images) – Getty Images
Class: SL3 — The player could have impairment in one or both legs and poor walking/running balance.
It was just a formality for Pramod Bhagat in Tokyo, where badminton made its maiden entry into the Paralympics. A four-time winner of the BWF World Para Championships, the Indian justified his status as the favourite in the SL3 class with an effortless 21-14, 21-7 win over David Bethell (Great Britain) in the final.
- Won the gold medal in badminton at the Tokyo Paralympics.
- Won two gold medals, one each in the Men’s Singles and Doubles categories, at the Dubai Para-Badminton tournament.
A product of the famed Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi, Ravi Kumar Dahiya showed tremendous fighting spirit as he took the 57kg category wrestling silver in Tokyo, matching the feat of Sushil Kumar in London 2012. A two-time Asian champion, what was striking all through Ravi’s campaign was his never-say-die spirit especially when the chips were down. This even when he went down fighting to double World champion Zaur Uguev (Russia) in the final.
- Won the silver medal in the 57kg category at the Tokyo Olympics.
SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
Rich haul: Shooter Avani Lekhara shows the two medals – gold and bronze – she won at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, on her arrival in Jaipur. – PTI
Class: SH1 (Rifle) — It is designated to athletes with lower limb impairment for rifle events.
Avani Lekhara was simply dazzling in Tokyo, scripting history by emerging as the first Indian woman gold medallist in the Paralympics. The undergraduate law student took the top spot in the 10m air rifle event (SH1 category), with a new Games record from a field that had both the reigning Olympic and World champions in the fray. Later in the Games, Avani gained a bronze in 50m rifle 3 positions and did one better, emerging as the first Indian to win two medals in a single Games.
- Won the gold medal in the 10m air rifle event at the Tokyo Paralympics
- Also won bronze medal in the 50m rifle 3 positions at the Tokyo Paralympics
Mirabai Chanu became the first Indian to win a weightlifting medal since Karnam Malleswari claimed a bronze at the 2000 Sydney Games. – PTI
A former world champion and reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Mirabai Chanu landed India’s first medal in Tokyo, taking silver in the 49kg category. Chanu took the podium with a total of 203kg as she became the second Indian, after Karnam Malleswari (Sydney 2000), to win a weightlifting Olympic medal.
- Silver medal in weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics. She is only the second Indian to win a weightlifting medal at the Olympics.
The gritty 24-year-old from Assam was struck by a bout of Covid-19 in the run-up to Tokyo. But this never stopped her from becoming the second Indian woman boxer, after Mary Kom (London 2021), and third overall to get to the podium. A two-time World championship bronze medallist, Lovlina was in the flow, using her tremendous reach, until she lost out to eventual champion Busenaz Surmeneli (Turkey) in the semifinals and settled for the bronze medal in the 69kg category.
- Won a boxing bronze medal in the 69kg category at the Tokyo Olympics.
NATIONAL TEAM OF THE YEAR
Indian Men’s Cricket Team
Raiders of Gabba: India was seemingly down for the count after being dismissed by Australia for a record-low Test score in Adelaide in the first game. But a unit that, with the exception of a few players, was actually the second or third rung in terms of stature and experience found enough hidden reserves to win the fourth Test in Brisbane and the series 2-1 to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. (Issue date: February 6, 2021.) – Getty Images
The Indian cricket team gave the country yet another reason to rejoice, scripting an incredible Test series win against Australia by a 2-1 margin. What added more glitter to this historic win was that it marked the second successive away series triumph against the Aussies and that too when the squad was without the services of its captain Virat Kohli and a few other key players. However, as the year progressed, India lost to New Zealand in the World Test Championship final and bowed out of the T20 World Cup without making it to the semifinals. India ended the year on a high, winning the T20 and Test series against New Zealand at home.
- Won the Test series in Australia 2-1.
- World Test Championships finalist, lost to New Zealand.
- Won the T20 series and Test series against New Zealand at home.
Indian Men’s Hockey Team
TOKYO, JAPAN – AUGUST 05: Varun Kumar (L) of Team India reacts with the team after winning the Men’s Bronze medal match between Germany and India on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 05, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images) – Getty Images
Going without a medal through nine successive Games since its eighth and last gold medal triumph in Moscow 1980, the bronze in Tokyo was a welcome relief for a country craving for success in international hockey. True, India still has a long way to go before regaining its powerhouse status in the sport, but the remarkable showing by the Manpreet Singh-led squad especially in the crucial stages of the tournament in Tokyo only underlined that the country has the potential to get there in the long run if steps are taken in the right direction.
- Won India’s first Olympic medal since 1980. The team defeated Germany to win bronze.
Indian Women’s Cricket Team
India drew its first-ever pink-ball Test against Australia in Perth in a first Test meeting between the teams in 15 years. Smriti Mandhana hit her first Test century during the day-night Test in Carrara. Before that, the women’s team donned a Test jersey for the first time in 2401 days, when it took on England at the Bristol County Ground. Shafali Verma starred across the two innings with an aggregate of 159 runs, the third most runs by a player on women’s Test debut. Sneh Rana’s unbeaten 80 in the second innings, the third-highest while batting at No. 8 on women’s Test debut, helped India salvage an incredible draw. However, India’s whiteball performance wasn’t flattering. South Africa, which toured India in February, dominated on all counts over five ODIs and three T20Is. The team similarly struggled during the white-ball legs in England and Australia.
- Drew the lone Test against England in Bristol
- Drew the maiden pink-ball Test against Australia in Carrara
CLUB OF THE YEAR
Mumbai City FC had beaten ATK Mohun Bagan in the final to clinch the Indian Super League title last season. – Sportzpics / ISL
Mumbai City was at its irresistible best as it finished with a double – winning its maiden ISL title, a fortnight after clinching the League Winners Shield. ATK Mohun Bagan was at the receiving end, both times, as Mumbai won the ISL final 2-1 after eking out a 2-0 win in the earlier encounter.
- Won the ISL League Winners Shield and the ISL title in March 2021.
Football, as a matter of fact, has been on a downhill in Kerala for some years. In that sense, the triumph of Gokulam Kerala in the I-League was a major morale-booster for the crazy fans of the game in the State. The side was left in a must-win situation in its last encounter and against TRAU in Kolkata, it was a goal down before it rebounded to register a memorable 4-1 win.
- Won the I-League after defeating TRAU 4-1 in a must-win last encounter.
Chennai Super Kings
Chennai Super Kings players celebrate with the IPL 2021 trophy. – Sportzpics for IPL
An eternal favourite among regular IPL fans, Chennai Super Kings won its fourth title in the league, as it outclassed Kolkata Knight Riders in the final by a margin of 27 runs. It marked a great comeback for the side, which had failed last season to get into the playoffs for the first time since the league was established. This year, CSK lost three matches in the league phase to finish second behind Delhi Capitals. But, led by the indomitable M.S. Dhoni, the side stayed on course in the qualifier stage before reaching the final and getting to the muchcoveted title.
- Won the IPL 2021 title by defeating Kolkata Knight Riders in the final. It was the team’s fourth IPL league.
MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Neeraj Chopra’s Meteoric Rise
In early August, 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra made history as the first Indian to win a track and field gold medal at the Olympics with a stunning 87.5m throw in the men’s javelin final at Tokyo 2020. In the process, he also became only the second Indian to win an Olympic gold after Abhinav Bindra (2008 Beijing). The victory quenched the nation’s thirst for an athletics medal after having witnessed some heartbreaking misses with Milkha Singh (400m hurdles, 1960 Rome) and PT Usha (400m hurdles, 1984 Los Angeles), both falling short of the bronze by one hundredth of a second. It was only apt that Neeraj later dedicated his medal to the legendary Milkha Singh who passed away in June.
Mirabai Chanu’s Triumphant Opening Act
Weightlifter Mirabai Chanu was India’s first medallist in Tokyo, managing a total lift of 202kgs (87kgs in snatch + 115kgs in clean and jerk) in the 49kg category to claim silver. In the process, she became only the second Indian weightlifter after Karnam Malleswari (2000, bronze) to win an Olympic medal. Mirabhai had also qualified for Rio 2016, but the competition ended in agony as she failed to produce a single successful lift in any of her three clean and jerk attempts. In a remarkable turnaround since then, Mirabhai won a World Championship gold in 2017, Commonwealth Games gold in 2018 before the Tokyo high.
India ended a 41-year wait for its first Olympics hockey medal in August at the Tokyo Games. – GETTY IMAGES
Men’s Hockey Bridging the Gap with its Golden Past
The Indian men’s hockey team ended a 41-year wait for an Olympic medal by clinching the bronze with a thrilling 5-4 victory over Germany. By the 25-minute mark, India was down 1-3 only for Harmanpreet Singh to score twice from penalty corners to make it 3-3 and Simranjeet Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh scored to give India a 5-3 lead with a little less than two quarters left. Germany probed and got one goal back but PR Sreejesh & Co. held firm to earn the nation its first medal since the gold at the 1980 Moscow games won under V. Baskaran.
The Sportsar Aces awards are presented by Byju’s Classes with IDFC First Bank as the associate partner. Odisha is the Sports Destination Partner while Union Bank of India is the banking partner. Nippon Paint is our Colour Partner and Life Insurance Corporation of India is the Insurance Partner.