Best of 2022 | From Neeraj Chopra to HS Prannoy, Indian athletes who impressed with their performances
Indian sports enthusiasts will always remember the year 2022. A great follow-up to an almost equally amazing 2021, when the nation's sports talents shone brilliantly at the Tokyo Olympics, it was a year of numerous firsts and historic exploits by Indian athletes in the international arena.
SportsCafe takes a look at the superlative performances of the Indians internationally:
Neeraj Chopra's performance at World Championship and Diamond League
Maintaining that ideal run in 2022 after winning the gold medal at the Olympics in Tokyo the previous year would have been a difficult task for Neeraj Chopra. But the Indian men's javelin throw champion rose to the occasion, and what a rise! Chopra roared back into the international circuit to win a silver medal and set a national record at the Paavo Nurmi Games. Neeraj Chopra missed the first part of the 2022 season in order to restore his condition following a 10-month sabbatical following his Tokyo 2020 campaign.
For Chopra, things only got better. The Olympic champion won yet another silver at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, giving India its best performance at the event to date. This is only the second medal India has won at the world since Anju Bobby George's bronze medal in the long jump at the 2003 World Athletics Championships in Paris. Due to an injury, Neeraj Chopra was unable to compete in Birmingham's 2022 Commonwealth Games, missing the opportunity to defend his title. Chopra, though, made up for it with a fantastic Diamond League performance.
Chopra qualified for the Diamond League Final in Zurich after placing second in the Stockholm meet and first in the Lausanne leg, the first-ever victory by an Indian in the Diamond League. He became the first Indian to win a Diamond League title after an outstanding performance in the Swiss city. He often broke the national record during this period, and his most recent personal best throw of 89.94 meters came in the Stockholm Diamond League competition.
A few firsts at CWG 2022
India's prospects of bringing home a spectacular haul at the 2022 CWG were slim without shooting, a sport that has contributed to the bulk of its medals at the Commonwealth Games to date. However, Indian athletes rose to the occasion and came away with 61 medals, including 22 golds, 16 silvers, and 23 bronze. While the expected performers—the weightlifters, wrestlers, boxers, badminton, and table tennis players—impressed, there were also some surprise triumphs.
With the women's team earning a gold medal and the men's team taking home silver, Lawn Bowls, a sport that had previously received little attention from Indian sports enthusiasts, came to light. India had never before competed in the sport at the Commonwealth Games and won medals. Track and field athletes from India also achieved notable firsts. Eldhose Paul earned India's first triple jump gold at CWG 2022 after defeating fellow countryman Abdulla Aboobacker to give India its first-ever 1-2 finish at the Games. Murali Sreeshankar won India's first silver medal in the men's long jump.
Race walkers Priyanka Goswami and Sandeep Kumar also placed on the podium, but the highlight of the competition was steeplechaser Avinash Sable, who finished with a silver medal in the men's 3000m steeplechase, wedged between two Kenyans, in a time that set a new national record.
The achievement of Avinash Sable was significant since it marked the first time since the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, in 1994 that Kenya failed to sweep the steeplechase medals. In Birmingham, the women's cricket and hockey teams from India both won medals.
Thomas Cup victory
At the Thomas Cup 2022 held in Bangkok, Thailand, the Indian men's badminton team, captained by Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, Kidambi Srikanth, and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, helped write yet another chapter in Indian sports history. India entered the competition as the fifth seeds despite never having won the men's badminton team world championships in the previous 31 editions. However, India played flawless badminton the whole tournament.
To advance to the knockout rounds, the Indian team came second to Chinese Taipei in their group. As he pulled off back-to-back clutch victories under duress to help India defeat Malaysia and Denmark, respectively, by identical 3-2 scores, HS Prannoy emerged as the hero in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Indian shuttlers put up a professional performance to defeat Indonesia, the competition's reigning champions and most successful team with 14 championships, in the decisive match 3-0 to win their first Thomas Cup championship.
Boxing world champion Nikhat Zareen
The Indian boxer Nikhat Zareen would have considered the year 2022 to be successful if she had won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. The Indian fighter, however, went one further by also winning the title of global champion. Nikhat Zareen, the sixth Indian woman to win the title after the famous MC Mary Kom, Laishram Sarita Devi, Jenny RL, and Lekha K. C., defeated Thailand's Jutamas Jitpong, a Tokyo Olympian, 5-0 in the Women's World Boxing Championships 2022 final. In addition, she is the first person outside of Mary Kom to win a world championship abroad.
Women's hockey team impresses
The first Women's FIH Nations Cup was won by the Indian women's hockey team. After New Zealand and Australia withdrew owing to COVID-19, the Indian women's team was given the unexpected chance to compete in the FIH Pro League 2021–22 season, and they embraced the chance to compete against the best in the world.
India put in a great performance in their first campaign, challenging powerhouses like Argentina and finishing a creditable third. However, with Australia and New Zealand coming back, India withdrew from the FIH Pro League's 2022–23 season. The FIH announced the men's and women's Nations Cup tournaments, providing a chance for Indian players who had repeatedly expressed a desire to rejoin the FIH Pro League. Each of the champions would get a promotion to the FIH Pro League for the 2023–2024 season.
With a goal in mind, Savita Punia and company joined the eight-team event in December. They won all three of their group matches to advance to the semifinals, where they defeated a determined challenge from Ireland in a shootout. The Indians defeated Spain in a high-stakes game that finished with a 1-0 victory for them.
Other notable mentions
Some of the other notable Indian sports moments of 2022 include Rudranksh Patil winning a world championship in rifle shooting, Antim Panghal becoming India's first-ever Under-20 women's wrestling champion, Nitu Ghanghas breaking through at the Commonwealth Games in boxing, the Indian men's football team qualifying for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, and the Indian mixed 4x400 relay team setting a junior Asian record en route to a silver medal at the Under-20 world championships. Not to forget, an alpine skier from Kashmir, Arif Khan made his Winter Olympics debut and finished 45th overall, in a field of 89 competitors.