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Friday, January 28, 2022

Going for gold

Despite the pandemic’s shadow, 2021 was a sweet year for Indian sports; 2022 could be sweeter

By: Editorial |
Updated: January 1, 2022 2:33:57 pm
One feat overshadows the rest — javelin thrower Neeraj Kumar’s Olympic gold. No Indian track-and-field athlete had ever stood on an Olympic podium, only PT Usha had come close.

For another year, the pandemic cast its shadow on the sporting world. Though sportsmen learned to cope with it, most events rolled out in front of empty galleries, athletes were bubble-bound, and on numerous instances, events had to be called off, or put off due to an outbreak or bubble-breach. Amidst all the gloom and anxieties, though, Indian sports enjoyed a year of unprecedented glory. For the first time in Olympic history, an Indian won a gold medal in track and field in Tokyo, the hockey team ended their 37-year-old medal drought, a feisty weightlifter from a village in Manipur clinched a silver. Elsewhere, Kidambi Srikanth became the first Indian male shuttler to win a silver medal at the World Championships; the men’s cricket team bookended an year in which they further asserted their supremacy by breaching two fortresses, Brisbane and Centurion, between beating England home and away, and conquering Australia.

One feat overshadows the rest — javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s Olympic gold. No Indian track-and-field athlete had ever stood on an Olympic podium, only PT Usha had come close. In its scope and potential to change Indian athletics, it can only be compared with India’s World Cup triumph in 1983. Like the cricket revolution, there could be an upsurge in athletics. It could be athletics’ awakening-the-sleeping-giant moment in the country. In Neeraj, India has found its first super-athlete too. He is just 23, a few years short of the supposed peak, and he could fetch more glory for his country. Expectations will be high in 2022, the year of both Commonwealth and Asian Games, where India will push for a bigger medal haul.

Virat Kohli and his men will look to secure India’s maiden Test series win in South Africa. Later in the year, under their new white-ball captain Rohit Sharma, they will embark on the quest for the T20 World Cup. The shuttlers will have their eyes fixed on the World Championships, and the world will turn its collective gaze towards Qatar for the football World Cup. By this time, the world would have reverted from the new normal, the stadiums would have rolled up their shutters, bio-secure bubbles eased and the galleries would be filled with joy and cheer again. 2021 was a sweet year for Indian sports; 2022 could be sweeter.

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