By Abhishek Kumar
2021 has been a year unlike any for sport and sports lovers and will go down as a memorable one in the shadow the virus. In sport, there are many moments that stay in our minds beyond the runs, goals and trophies. These moments remain etched in our memories forever. Many teams scripted history while they were on peak, whereas sportspersons across the world achieved unimaginable highs. In 2021, many people lost their lives, lost hopes due to the coronavirus pandemic across the world, but it was the sport that gave motivation and opportunity to the people to celebrate life. Nothing and absolutely nothing deterred the will and motivation in the sport even when the world, as we knew it, perished under Covid-19’s onslaught. From football, cricket, tennis, and the deferred Olympics, we saw many glorious moments. Let’s have a quick recap of 2021.
Messi ends Argentina’s trophy drought
Lionel Messi ended the trophy drought for his national team after Argentina beat Brazil to lift their first international title after 1993. This was also Messi’s first international trophy with his national team. Before that, Messi had led Argentina to FIFA World Cup final in 2014 and the Copa America final in 2015 & 2016. The year also saw the Blaugrana legend swap shirts and turn out for Paris Saint Germain.
Transfers of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos
2021 was also a very strange year for sports, as no one would have predicted that the captains of Spanish rival clubs Real Madrid FC and FC Barcelona will be playing for the same team. Yes, it happened in 2021, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos both left their iconic clubs in dramatic exits and landed at the same club, Paris Saint Germain. While Portuguese legend and former Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo left Juventus after three seasons in Italy and ended up at his former club Manchester United, after a brief heartattack for the United faithful when reports said he was headed to the other Manchester team.
Italy win Euro 2020
After failing to make it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Italy announced their comeback in international football in a grand fashion by winning the European championship. Manager Roberto Mancini engineered the Azzurri to their second Euro title after beating England, again tantalisingly close, in a penalty shoot-out at Wembley. The Italians steamrolled through the tournament which was marked by Christian Eriksen’s collapse for Denmark.
Messi winning his 7th Balon d’Or over Robert Lewandowski
This year the Balon d’Or was awarded to former Barca and Argentina legend Lionel Messi. It was his 7th (most) in his collection. However, the sporting world was divided over this year’s Balon d’Or winner and many described this as a ‘scandal’. German media and some English media including The Guardian declared Lewandowski as the stand out player of the year.
Newcastle United’s Saudi-backed takeover
The Premier League already has some of the richest owners in club football. But no one imagined that Newcastle United will be bought by the richest owners of all. Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund owned by Mohamed Bin Salman took over the Magpies. After the official announcement, Newcastle fans celebrated outside the club and in the city.
Pant’s Gabba breach
Until this year January, no team had beaten Australia in a Test match at Brisbane’s Gabba stadium in the last 33 years. The Gabba was an impenetrable fortress with its bouncy pitch and home-crowd advantage for the Aussies. But stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane’s team finally breached the Gabba fortress. Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant shone bright in the match with his unbeaten 89. India went on to win the series for the first time in Australia.
Australia win T20 World Cup 2021
Before the tournament, no pundit had predicted that Australia would even be in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup. England and Pakistan were the favourites to win the tournament, but proving everyone wrong, Aaron Finch-led Australia went on to win their first-ever T20 World Cup defeating rivals New Zealand in the final.
New Zealand crush Kohli’s dream
2013 was the year when India won an ICC trophy last time. Since then, the Men in Blue have lost in knockouts in various ICC tournaments, including the 2014 final defeat to Sri Lanka, the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy against arch-rivals Pakistan, and recently the 2021 World Test Championship final against New Zealand. The Kane Williamson-led Kiwis thrashed the Men in Blue by 8 tickets in the World Test Championship final at the Lords. All these defeats came during Virat Kohli’s captaincy. During his 7 years as captain, India had not won a single ICC tournament.
Chennai Super Kings adds one more title
India’s finest captain MS Dhoni once again led his IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings to the title. Earlier in the 2020 season of the cash-rich cricket tournament, CSK finished second last on the points table, but in 2021, the MS Dhoni-led franchise became the first team to qualify for the playoffs. CSK handed a 27-run defeat to Eoin Morgan’s Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2021 final to clinch the title for the 4th time.
Ajaz Patel’s rare feat
India defeated New Zealand in the Mumbai Test match and won the series, but it was New Zealand’s Ajaz Patel who stole the limelight. The 33-year-old Patel took all 10 wickets in a Test match innings and equalled the record of Anil Kumble and Jim Laker.
BCCI’s Kohli nama
2021 didn’t end on a positive note for Virat Kohli. After India’s poor performance in the T20 World Cup, he voluntarily stepped down from T20I captaincy. But Virat was sacked by the BCCI from the ODI captaincy. Reports suggest the BCCI had given him a 48-hour ultimatum to resign from ODI captaincy. But the 33-year-old claimed he was informed 90 minutes prior to India’s team selection for the South Africa tour. BCCI appointed Rohit Sharma as the new captain to lead the Indian side in white-ball cricket. BCCI boss Sourav Ganguly has since then ducked the fast-rising Kohli bouncer with great elan.
Neeraj Chopra’s golden throw at Tokyo Olympics 2020
In a nation beset with vegetarian-loving people, winning a javelin throw gold at the Olympics is special. The 24-year-old Haryana boy scripted history at the Tokyo Olympics and won the first-ever gold medal in the track and field category for India. Chopra delivered on the biggest stage by throwing his javelin farthest (87.58 m). He became the second Indian to win an individual gold in the Olympics after shooter Abhinav Bindra in the Beijing Olympics 2008.
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai and the CPC
Former World no. 1 doubles Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai accused Zhang Gaoli, China’s former vice-premier, of sexual assault. The news spread like wildfire in the whole world, but she reportedly went missing. Concerned over her whereabouts took the sports fraternity by storm. However, a few weeks later a Chinese website claimed that the allegation was false and Peng Shuai is ok. The Communist Party of China seems to have blanked out all traces of the story now.
Medvedev shatters Djokovic’s dream of Grand Slam
In tennis, 2021 belonged to 20-times Grand Slam title winner, Serbian Novak Djokovic. The 34-year-old went on to win three of the 4 Grand Slam titles of the year, the Wimbledon, Australia Open, French Open. However, his dream to win all 4 titles to complete his Grand Slam was shattered by Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who clinched his first-ever Grand Slam at the US Open.
Emma Raducanu fairytale at US Open
No one knew who Emma Raducanu was until she created history for England at US Open 2021. She became the first and only player to win the Grand Slam title as a qualifier. The 18-year-old also became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam title in 44 years.
Max Verstappen’s last-lap victory to win Formula 1 title
In one of the most dramatic finishes in Formula One history, Max Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi Grand Pix with his insane final lap over former champion Lewis Hamilton. Not all were convinced but Verstappen did win the chequered flag!
Asian Games: Indian golfer Aditi Ashok wins silver in women’s individual event
Aditi also became the first Indian woman and the second Indian overall to win an individual medal in golf at the Asian Games, trailing only Shiv Kapur.
Aditi Ashok of India on Sunday, October 1, took home the gold in the women’s individual golf competition. At the West Lake International Golf Course, the 25-year-old from Bangalore, Karnataka, placed second with a score of 17-under after shooting rounds of 67-66-61-73.
She lost to Arpichaya Yubol of Thailand, who finished with a score of 19-under and earned silver with rounds of 67-65-69-77. Hyunjo Yoo of South Korea won the bronze medal with a score of 16-under with rounds of 67-67-68-65.
Aditi also became the first Indian woman and the second Indian overall to win an individual medal in golf at the Asian Games, trailing only Shiv Kapur. Kapur won a gold medal at the Asian Games in Busan in 2002.
Pranavi URS Sharath and Avani Prashanth, the other two competitors from India, came in at positions 12 and 17, respectively. However, Ashok, who agonisingly placed fourth at the Olympics in Tokyo two years ago, was unable to lead India to a podium result in the team competition.
In the history of the Asian Games, India has won seven medals in golf (three gold and four silver). The trio of Rahul Bajaj, Abhijit Singh Chadha, Rashid Khan, and Abhinav Lohan won silver in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, ending India’s 13-year drought for a golf medal.
In terms of Ashok, since going pro in 2016, she has paved the way for women’s golf in India. Following her T5 finish at the LPGA Founders Cup, Aditi became the first Indian female golfer to join the top 50 in the world rankings, marking a huge step forward in her career.
Ashok started playing golf at a young age. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, she won the National Junior Championship three times in a row. She simultaneously claimed the junior and senior titles in 2014. The Asian Youth Games in 2013, the Youth Olympics, and the Asian Games both in 2014 included only one golfer from India.
Her professional background has also been excellent. She competes on the Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour, where she has earned US$ 646,044 (about Rs. 15.3 crores). She is also among the top 10 on the Ladies European Tour’s money list after finishing first, second, and third at the start of the season.
India defeats Pakistan to win historic squash gold medal at Asian Games 2023
The triumph helped India win the best-of-three gold medal match 2-1.
Saurav Ghoshal, Abhay Singh, and Mahesh Mangaonkar of India’s men’s squash team completed an incredible comeback to win India’s second squash gold medal at the Asian Games.
After losing the first round, the Indians were down 0-1 before Saurav Ghoshal orchestrated a comeback and Abhay Singh won his best-of-five match by 3-2 in a nail-biter. The triumph helped India win the best-of-three gold medal match 2-1.
After the first two bouts failed to distinguish the two bitter rivals, Abhay Singh faced Noor Zaman in the championship match. The last game of the five-game match between the two superstars was decided by a single point. In the fifth and final game, Abhay was down 8-10 and facing certain defeat. There was no room for error because India could have lost the gold medal with just one point.
However, Abhay showed steely strength to save those two points and go on to win the championship game 12-10. After winning a gold in the 2014 men’s competition, this is India’s second gold medal in squash at the Asiad.
Mahesh Mangaonkar and Saurav Ghoshal played their matches before to Abhay Singh’s match. Mahesh lost three games in a row, which was a devastating setback. Then Ghoshal took matters into his own hands. The renowned Indian talent defeated Muhamad Asim of Pakistan in three straight games, 3-0. After then, Abhay Singh joined the group and contributed to the historic match.
Esha Singh, Palak, and Divya Thadigol, members of the Indian women’s 10m air pistol squad, won silver yesterday in the team competition at the 2018 Asian Games.
Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar, Swapnil Sunil Kusale, and Akhil Sheoran’s men’s squad quickly followed suit by winning gold in the men’s 50m rifle 3P team competition.
After losing 1-2 against Hong Kong in the semifinals, the Indian women’s squash team, comprised of Joshna Chinappa, Tanvi Khanna, and Anahat Singh, won bronze.
Asian Games 2023: India clinched a silver medal in shooting on Day 7
Divya TS of India lost to China by a razor-thin margin in the mixed team final of the 10m air pistol.
On Day 7 of the ongoing Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou on Saturday, India won a silver medal in the shooting competition. Sarabjot Singh and Divya TS of India lost to China by a razor-thin margin in the mixed team final of the 10m air pistol.
The Indians defeated 14-16 after a thrilling game. Jyothi Yarraji Nithya Ramraj and Murali Sreeshankar have both advanced to the finals of their respective athletic events: the women’s 100m hurdles and the men’s long jump, respectively.
Aditi Ashok, who is in contention for a medal in women’s golf, finished the day in first place in individual round 3. India also won the third round of the women’s team golf competition.
India plays Pakistan in two significant matches as well. Later in the day, the two men’s hockey teams square off against one another in a game that could determine who advances to the semi-finals. The two men’s squash teams will compete for gold in the final.
Olympic bronze medal-winning boxer Lovlina Borgohain also begins her campaign in the women’s 75kg quarterfinal while the Indian men’s badminton team takes on South Korea in the semifinal. Olympic silver medalist Mirabai Chanu competes in the women’s 49 kg weightlifting event as well. She hasn’t received a medal from the Asian Games yet.
In the tennis mixed doubles finals, Liang En-shuo and Huang Tsung-hao of Chinese Taipei will compete against Rohan Bopanna and Rutuja Bhosale.
Meanwhile, Neeraj Chopra, an Olympic gold medallist, said his confidence in his ability to perform well in his upcoming final match on October 4. He said, I’m doing fine. There is a good vibe around here.He further said, his most recent victory was a gold medal in the Asian Games. I’m taking part once again this time, he added.