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Sportspersons made India proud this year

From overcoming physical and financial odds to opening up about their sexuality, Patriot lists the Indian athletes who have inspired us in 2019

Indian sports went through a lot of highs and lows in 2019. From India whitewashing Australia down under in cricket to the whole controversy in women’s boxing, there have been several memorable and controversial moments this year. However, what this year also provided wasa host of athletes who proved to be extremely inspirational.

They challenged all odds and made headlines in the world of sports in 2019, from coming from small towns and poor families to overcoming physical hurdles. These athletes have shown us that nothing is impossible, and in achieving their dreams, they have inspired millions of people.

India’s Hima Das celebrates winning the silver medal after the final of the women’s 400m athletics event during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 26, 2018. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

Expect to see a lot of women in the list, as this year has been a phenomenal one for themin Indian sports.

Diksha Dagar

Born deaf, 18-year-old golfer Diksha Dagar made her way into history books as she became the youngest Indian woman to win on the all-important Ladies European Tour (LET) on March 16. A left-handed golfer, Diksha is popularly known for being aggressive and fearless on the turf. While playing at India’s biggest women’s pro event, the Hero Women’s Indian Open in 2016, Diksha, who made her debut appearance in the competition, finished as the top amateur.

She had earlier clinched the sliver for India at the Deaflympics in Turkey in 2017. Having been an amateur, Diksha won a Women’s Golf Association of India pro event. She also represented India at the Queen Sirikit Cup event to go on to win the Singapore Open in 2018. With the Olympics still some time away, Diksha will now be hoping to clinch a medal in Tokyo 2020 and add to her already impressive resume.

Dutee Chand

Despite Article 377 being scrapped last year and homosexuality being decriminalised, the LGBTQ community is still not accepted in the society and it takes a lot for someone to come out, especially if he/she is a public figure. And that is exactly what Dutee Chand did.

On May 19.  The Odisha-born sprinter made headlines as she publicly admitted that she was in a same-sex relationship. “This is my personal matter. I am sure everything will be fine in a month or two. On the international level, there are several athletes (who are homosexual). To live, everybody needs a partner who understands your heart. We like each other so we decided to live together. She gives me motivation for my sport. My focus on sports will be intact,” she had said.  With this, she also became perhaps the first Indian athlete to come out.

On track, the national record holder became the first Indian woman track and field athlete to clinch a gold medal at the 30th Summer University Games in Napoli, Italy after she won the 100 m dash event in July this year.

Later, in August, she won another gold medal at the 100 m event of the 5th Indian Grand Prix. Considered India’s fastest woman, Dutee also bettered her own national record in the women’s 100 m heats of the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019.

Hima Das

Eighteen-year-old athlete Hima Das, who hails from a small village of Dhing in Assam’s Nagaon, is the youngest child in the family and her father is a small rice farmer. Nicknamed ‘Dhing Express,’ she spent most of her childhood coping with an overwhelming financial crisis, whereas today she makes about Rs 30-35 lakh a year per brand. This year, she made it to the ‘Forbes India 30 Under 30’ list. She has also been appointed as the country’s first youth ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) India, recently.

In a span of three weeks, Hima Das won a record-breaking five successive gold medals in different meets across Poland and the Czech Republic. Four of her victories came in the 200 m sprint while her fifth top-podium finish was in the 400 m event.

Shafali Verma

What do you expect a 15-year old child to do? Probably engrossed in his/her studies or hanging out with friends, without a care of the world.

However, 15-year-old cricketer Shafali Verma is different. She replaced the veteran Mithali Raj after she announced retirement from T20 Internationals and has already proved herself to be a worthy successor, to fill Mithali’s boots. Shafali is one of the best batswomen India has currently. This Rohtak-born teenage cricketer was inspired by Sachin Tendulkar’s final Ranji Trophy game at Lahli ground in Haryana.

She made her decision to have a career in cricket after watching Tendulkar’s brilliant performance and knock out sixes, and recently surpassed his 30-year-old record with a blazing knock. She became the youngest Indian cricketer to score a half-century in international cricket. Chosen for her hard-hitting prowess, Shafali’s rare talent was spotted during the Women’s T20 challenge earlier this year where she played under Mithali for Team Velocity.

Niranjan Mukund

Mukund, all of 24, already features in the Forbes 30 U30 List under the sports and entertainment section.

He started the year with a bang — clinching a gold in the 200 metre event, and got a silver in the 50m Butterfly category at the World Series 2019 in Brazil. Diagnosed with spina bifida, a neural tube defect that affects the spine, the Bengaluru boy had to wade through a number of surgeries before he took to swimming. From being unable to even stand to now having won over 44 international medals, Mukund is now focused on qualifying for the Paralympics.

Rakesh Kumar

Rakesh Kumar became the first para-archer to qualify for the Paralympics after pitching in with a good showing in the World Para Archery Championships this year.

The Jammu and Kashmir sportsman suffered a spinal injury in a car crash in 2007 and has limited mobility.

He took up the sport two years ago, and participated in the European Para Archery Circuit in 2018, winning gold. He won a bronze in the Fazza Para World ranking event in the mixed team event in Dubai this year. Kumar hit a competition best of 689 points in the compound men’s open ranking round in the World Championships, which helped him book his spot to Tokyo.

Indian women’s rugby team

“Rugby har kisike bas ki baat nahi,” said Indian national Himani Dutt in an exclusive interview to Patriot in July. Like Himani, 26 other girls from all parts of the country came together to go to the Asian Rugby Championships in Phillipines.

A sport that is not followed by many, it has been a difficult road for all the girls as they barely had money and sponsorships- yet they travelled to Philippines for the Asian Rugby Championships. This team however, had lost all their matches at the international level.

However, things turned around in this tournament, as the girls beat Malaysia to register the first win for an international rugby team from the country. The girls, some college students, and even housewives, came to Manila and conquered one of the continent’s best sides.

Perhaps this is a start of something great for Indian rugby!

Yashasvi Jaiswal

Hailing from Suriya village in Uttar Pradesh, young Yashasvi always wanted to be a cricketer. But given the place he came from, and considering that his father only owned a small-time paint shop, it was difficult for him to make it big, though he was always talented.

He somehow moved to Mumbai, and stayed at his relatives small rented room there. He used to go to Azad Maidan every day, to get a chance to impress one of the coaches who train there. Meanwhile, Jaiswal was selling paani puri to earn a living.

The 17-year old was then spotted by local coach, whom he fondly calls Pappu sir. He impressed him, and the coach in turn arranged a tent for him to stay. So, Yashasvi practiced his cricket while he was staying in a tent in Mumbai while selling paani puri.

Owing to his immense talent Yashasvi slowly ascended the cricketing ranks, and scored a bulk of runs in local Mumbai tournaments, before finally making the cut in the under-19 setup where he trained under the tutelage of Rahul Dravid, and shared a room with Arjun Tendulkar.

In the Vijay Hazare trophy, he scored 564 runs in six innings at an average of 112.8 and with three hundred and one half centuries. This included a blistering innings of 203 runs from 154 balls, thus becoming the youngest batsman to score a double century in List A cricket at just 17 years of age.

In the recently concluded IPL auction, Jaiswal was picked up by the Rajasthan Royals for a whopping Rs 2.4 crores, thus achieving the perfect rags to riches story

Jaiswal’s next assignment is the under-19 world Cup in South Africa, where he will be looking to guide the Indian side to another victory in the tournament.