National Sports Day: Offbeat sports and sporting legends who aren’t part of a Bollywood movies but have made India proud
On this National Sports Day, August 29, we turn the spotlight on the sportsmen who have made India proud on world platforms winning medals and many firsts for the country.
Sport is poetically described as art in motion and beauty that flows through every action made, delighting people of all ages. It is more than just a game – something that inspires and captivates the audience. Though India has a primary audience for cricket; and hockey being the national sport gets marginal attention; however, in the last decade, tennis, boxing, wrestling and weight lifting have also grabbed our attention, thanks to our sportsmen and women who have been bringing India medals from the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. These athletes have not only made India proud with their achievements but also inspire millions of aspirants with their heart-wrenching stories of struggles.
That said, while these sports have made space in every home, there are certain adventurous games that still secure the interest of a specific (upper or elite) class of people. These athletes don’t make it to huge headlines or social media memes or a script for a blockbuster movie. But very often they make India proud on many platforms. On this National Sports Day, August 29, we turn the spotlight on those offbeat sports and sportsmen who have made India proud on world platforms winning medals and many firsts for the country.
Skiing enjoys a very limited number of professional enthusiasts for its expensive nature and training resources. The adventure, however, is enjoyed by millions of people of all ages for its thrill. Arif Khan, a skier from Kashmir is the lone Indian to have earned a spot at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The 31-year-old secured his position in the Olympics after winning the qualifying match in Dubai last year.
One of the most adventurous and thrilling sports, Sailing has mostly been the choice of those with a heart of a warrior. And India has some of the finest offshore sailors who have put the country on the world’s sailing map by winning several national and international championships.
Captain Atool Sinha, who won an Asian Games Silver Medal for India in 2010, and also raced across the South Atlantic Ocean in a record time of 20.8 days during the biggest Trans-Atlantic Oceanic Race — Cape to Rio Race in 2017 onboard a 56-foot naval sailing vessel, is an accomplished yachtsman and has brought home International Sailing Medals — two golds, three silvers and two bronzes. Recently, Captain Sinha was adjudged as one of the finest offshore sailors in the country after having won the Offshore Sailing Regatta organised by the Indian Navy. He was awarded with the Admiral Ramdas trophy presented by the Yachting Association of India in 2021.
In addition, four young Indian sailors, Nethra Kumanan, Ganapathy Chengappa, Varun Thakkar and Vishnu Saravanan secured a spot at the Olympics 2020 for the first time. Captain Dilip Donde, a retired Indian Naval officer is the first Indian to complete a solo, unassisted circumnavigation of the globe under sail.
Popularly known as horse riding, yes, it is a sport and thirty-year-old Fouaad Mirza from Bengaluru is the first Equestrian to become the first jockey to represent India after Imtiaz Anees in 2000. Although Fouaad didn’t win a medal, it was an impressive debut performance with his horse Seigneur Medicott (Mickey) at the only Olympic event that involves animals. Fouaad is the first equestrian to win two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games and an Arjuna Award recipient. He may also have the credit for reviving the sport in India.
This game of royals has attracted many eyeballs for its elite league of players. The youngest from India, who is credited with reviving the equine sport of polo in the country, Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur is making a distinct name for himself on the polo field. Padmanabh began playing competitive polo in 2015 in England and has been a member of Guards Polo Club in Windsor. The royal scion of Jaipur led the Indian National Team at Hurlingham Park which marked the first visit to the venue by an Indian team in over 70 years. He has also played with Prince William and Prince Harry in England in a competitive match in 2017 and won the match twice against HRH the Duke of Cambridge. He is the youngest ever polo player to represent India in a World Cup match in Iran in 2017.
Mostly played for relaxation and to enjoy the outdoors; the game of golf has lured elite class individuals for centuries. The game hasn’t become too popular among the masses thus alienating the players from the mainstream group of sportsmen. Recently, Aditi Ashok brought the spotlight to this elite game when she represented India at the 2020 Summer Olympics in the women’s individual stroke play in which she was ranked 200 in the world. She was two shots behind fetching the gold. In the past, Indian player Arjun Singh Atwal was the first player born in India to become a member of, and later win a tournament on the US-based PGA Tour. Jeev Milkha Singh, another Indian golfer became the first player from India to join the European Tour in 1998. He was also the first Indian golfer to break into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking in October 2006. The Government of India awarded him the civilian honour of Padma Shri in 2007.