Sharath Kamal, Eldhose Paul, HS Prannoy | ANI
New Delhi: The year 2022 will be remembered by Indian sports fans. It was a year of many firsts and historic achievements by Indian athletes on the world stage - a good follow-up to an almost equally impressive 2021 which saw the country's stars shine bright at the Tokyo Olympics.
Here's a relook at the peaks Indian athletes touched in 2022.
1. Neeraj Chopra stamps his mark on the World Championships 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!
Neeraj Chopra roared back into the international circuit to win a silver medal and set a national record at the Paavo Nurmi Games. Neeraj Chopra had missed the first half 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 on the world stage since Anju Bobby George's bronze medal in the long jump at the 2003 World Athletics Championships in Paris.
Neeraj 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.
Neeraj Chopra repeatedly broke the national record during this time, and his most recent personal best throw of 89.94 metres came in the Stockholm Diamond League competition.
2. A Commonwealth Games of many firsts at Birmingham.
Shooting, which has contributed to the majority of India's medals at the Commonwealth Games to date, was removed from Birmingham 2022's schedule, making it unlikely that India will bring home an impressive haul.
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 a silver, Lawn Bowls, a sport that had previously received little attention from Indian sports fans, came to light. India had never previously 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.
The Indian hockey teams and women's cricket teams also bagged medals in Birmingham.
Race walkers Priyanka Goswami and Sandeep Kumar also got a place 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, sandwiched between two Kenyans, in a time that set a new national record.
3. Maiden Thomas Cup badminton win
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 entire 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 won their first Thomas Cup championship.
4. Nikhat Zareen becomes boxing world champion
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 better by also winning the title of world champion.
Nikhat Zareen, the fifth Indian woman to win the title after the legendary 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.
She is also the only one besides Mary Kom to become a world champion abroad.
5. Indian women's hockey team wins inaugural Women's FIH Nations Cup
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.
With a goal in mind, Savita Punia and the company entered 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. (ANI)