As another year comes to an end, we take a look back at some of the most memorable moments in Indian sports in 2016. From Aditi Ashok’s rise in golf to PV Sindhu’s silver medal at the Rio Olympics, the past year has provided us a lot of moments to savor.
10. Aditi Ashok became the first Indian to win a Ladies European Tour title
Almost 12 months back, Aditi Ashok became the youngest and the first Indian to win the Lalla Aicha Tour School to secure herself the Ladies European Tour card. Almost four months back, she became the first woman to represent India in golf at the Olympics as the sport returned at the quadrennial event after a hiatus of 112 years. Last month at the Women’s Indian Open, Aditi finished the final day with a score of 3 under par to claim the title and became the first Indian woman to win a European Tour title.
The 18-year-old from Bangalore has been a revelation, and she has rounded up her season by winning the Ladies European Tour’s Rookie of the Year Award and gaining a LPGA Tour card for 2017. In a sport where India has had very few icons to look up to, Aditi is one in the making.
9. India’s No.1 ranking in Tests
After a gap of almost five years, India returned to the top of the ICC Test rankings this season – initially after Sri Lanka humiliated Australia, but eventually on their own caliber. While questions were raised about the validity of the rankings itself, this Indian team under the leadership of Virat Kohli has won over a lot of their doubters with convincing wins over West Indies, New Zealand, and now England. Tougher tests, however, await Kohli’s men when they tour abroad to places like Australia, England, and South Africa away from these familiar surroundings of sun and dust. 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 Pakistan!
8. India win their third Kabaddi World Cup
There ain’t too many sports where India is the most dominant nation, so we might as well savor the one in which we are – Kabaddi. 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 for it.
Korea managed a huge upset in the opening game by defeating India 34-32, but they bounced back to reach the final, where they faced Iran. India
7. Sania Mirza’s unbeaten run and No.1 ranking
The year did not end as well as it had started for Sania Mirza, but what a start it was! 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. The craze around them had reached such heights that the Indian media even erased Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver's 109-match unbeaten record from the history books. A win at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy extended their run to 40, and the duo entered the Qatar Open knowing that winning the tournament would hand them a memorable achievement. However, eventually, they fell short as the Russian pair of Daria Kasatkina and Elena Vesnina ended their streak of 41 wins in a row.
Mirza and Hingis have parted ways now, 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.
6. Bengaluru FC’s reach the final of the AFC Cup
The pinnacle of their success story was reached last month when they became the first Indian club to reach the final of the AFC Cup. They did fall short in the final hurdle losing the match 0-1 to Iraqi side Air Force Club, but their journey to reach that final while competing in a league which is fighting for its existence is a story for the ages.
5. Dipa Karmakar in gymnastics
On Independence Day, India woke up to a sport named gymnastics. A nation of more than one billion people remained glued to their Television sets in the midnight hour to watch something they did not understand. A tryst with destiny in the greatest sporting event in the World - Dipa Karmakar attempting the ‘Vault of Death’. An Indian in the final of a gymnastic event in the Olympics was unthinkable a few years back. After all, it was in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games that India won its first-ever international medal in gymnastics. But Dipa Karmakar has changed all that.
Dipa Karmakar, who became the first-ever Indian gymnast to participate in a final event at the
4. Virat Kohli’s rise and rise
In cricket, this has truly been the year of Virat Kohli. He is having the sort of year Sachin Tendulkar had in 1998. Not everything in sports can be quantified by numbers, but cricket is one of the few sports where stats give you a fairly correct depiction of all the happenings. While Kohli’s greatness in the limited-overs formats of the game was never in doubt, he has also improved by leaps and bounds in the Test format. The Indian Test skipper is currently the only batsman in the world who has an above 50 average in all the formats of the game.
In the IPL, Virat Kohli took his power-hitting game to a different level. The RCB captain hit 38 sixes on his way to scoring an unprecedented total
3. Vijender winning WBO title
Vijender Singh has maintained his sensational entry into the world of pro boxing this year. The former Olympic medalist started the year by knocking out Alexander Horvath and followed it up with wins over Matiouze Royer and Andrzej Soldra. With a 6-0 record, the 31-year-old entered the Thyagraj Sports Complex, his first fight in front of the home fans after moving to pro boxing, in July and defeated the former European Champion Kerry Hope by a unanimous decision to win the WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight Championship. It was a historic moment, and even Vijender, who has made a name for being an eloquent speaker, was left short of words. He broke down in the ring, and all he could utter was, "thank you".
On Saturday, Vijender Singh toyed with former World Champion Francis Cheka, a veteran in the pro boxing world, and knocked him out in the third round to defend his title and extend his record to 8-0. One can expect bigger and better things from him in 2017.
2. Sakshi Malik winning
From wrestling with the boys under the guidance of her coach Ishwar Dahiya in Rohtak to winning the bronze medal in the Rio Olympics – Sakshi Malik’s journey has been an inspirational saga.
In the bronze medal match, she was trailing 0-5 at the half-way mark. But in an incredible turnaround, Sakshi pushed her opponent out of the area to tie the bout at 5-5 with just 9 seconds left on the clock. In the last few seconds, she managed another
1. PV Sindhu winning silver
PV Sindhu went to Rio as a promising yet
In the final, PV Sindhu walked onto the court in her yellow dress, and by the end of the night, she walked off it with a shiny medal around her neck, but it was not gold. She lost a thrilling encounter 21-19, 12-21, 15-21 against World No.1 Carolina Marin and had to settle for the Silver medal. However, that was the brightest moment for India in what was an otherwise disappointing Olympics.
Sindhu is now challenging for the top spot in badminton, and she has also finally broken her Super Series duck by winning the China Open.