In 2016, there were so many firsts for India in sports that truly made it an incredible year for the sports aficionado. From athletics to badminton to football to tennis, almost every game had at least one star that shone bright.
As the year 2016 comes to an end, Business Standard takes a look back at some of the most glorious moments in Indian sports in 2016.
1. Sindu wins Silver: Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, better known as P V Sindhu, became the new Badminton queen after she came home with the Rio Olympics silver medal, missing the gold to Spanish shuttler Carolina Marin in the title clash.
2. Sakshi wins Bronze: Rohtak girl Sakshi Malik became the first Indian female wrestler to win a bronze medal at the Olympics. Her journey to the medal was phenomenal as she was wrestling with the boys under the guidance of her coach Ishwar Dahiya in Rohtak.
3. Dipa Karmakar: The girl from Agartala became the first-ever Indian gymnast to participate in a final event at the Olympics. She finished fourth in the women’s vault final with a score of 15.066 and missed the medal by a whisker. In her first attempt, she scored a 14.866 but improved her score in the next attempt by scoring 15.266 to finish fourth. Well, she might not have won a medal, but just like Milkha Singh and P T Usha, she will be remembered as one of India’s greatest Olympians not to have won a medal – at least till the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when she has a shot at changing that.
4. Kabaddi World Cup: Kabaddi is one sport where India is the most dominant nation. The third edition of the Kabaddi World Cup was hosted in Ahmedabad after a gap of nine years, and like in the previous two editions, India once again came out on top.
However, this time the hosts were made to work harder. South Korea managed a huge upset in the opening game by defeating India 34-32, but the domestic team bounced back to reach the final, where they faced Iran. India were trailing Iran 13-18 at halftime before they turned around to win the match 38-29 as Ajay Thakur produced a scintillating display.
5. Hockey: The team of men’s and women’s Hockey convinced the world of their supremacy in Asia after clinching their respective Asia Cup titles in 2016.
While the men’s team edged past arch-rivals Pakistan in the final to win their second title, the women’s team defeated China in the championship match. The men’s hockey team also created history by winning its first silver medal in the Champions Trophy, going down on penalties in the final to Australia.
The junior hockey team emulated the seniors, clinching the Junior World Cup held in Lucknow. The colts tasted title success in the World Cup after a gap of 15 years and by the looks of it, the future of Indian hockey is in safe hands.
6. Leander Paes: The legend of Indian Tennis accomplished his mixed doubles career slam in early 2016. The maverick duo Paes and Martina Hingis took the French Open 2016 title – the one trophy that was missing from Paes’ already illustrious career.
7. Sania Mirza: 2016 didn’t end as well for the ace Indian Tennis player, as it had started for her. Mirza and Martina Hingis won the Australian Open and dropped just one set on their way. They also extended their unbeaten run to 36 matches, going past Gigi Fernández and Natasha Zvereva’s 1994 record of 28 straight victories. They were just 8 wins away from equaling the second-highest record of 44 consecutive wins by Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova.
As of now, Mirza and Hingis have parted ways, but the Indian tennis star has retained her No.1 ranking in women’s doubles for the second year in a row –- the longest stint by an Indian at the top spot in tennis.
8. Cricket: After a gap of almost5 years, Team India claimed their top spot in the ICC Test rankings this season. This new Indian team under the leadership of Virat Kohli and legendary spinner, now Head Coach Anil Kumble has won over a lot of its critics with convincing wins over West Indies, New Zealand, and now England.
However, Tougher tests, await Kohli’s men when they tour Australia, England, and South Africa. Till then, skepticism is likely to remain. But what made this even more special for the India fans was the fact that India snatched the top spot from none other than arch-rival Pakistan.
9. Vijender Singh: The former Olympic medalist has maintained his sensational entry into the world of pro boxing in 2016. Vijender punched his way to new milestones in the pro boxing ring, but none bigger than winning his maiden title belt. He beat Australian boxer Kerry Hope to clinch the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title in New Delhi. He then defended his crown against Tanzania’s Francis Cheka.
10. Football: Indian football’s shining bright light, Bengaluru FC, achieved a rare first in Indian football history that not even the likes of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Dempo could manage in the past.
The Sunil Chhetri-led side stormed into the final of the AFC Cup 2016, giving another reason for the football fanatics to cheer. Although they lost in the final to Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, their ability to punch above their weight won them multiple hearts here in India.