2015 has been another explosive year in the world of sports and we take a look at the Indians who inspired us the most in the year. There have been plenty and it was a difficult task to come up with the ones featured below. Here they are:
Injuries forced her to concentrate mainly in doubles and teaming up with Martina Hingis has done wonders to her career. She ended the year ranked number one in doubles after winning nine doubles titles in 2015, including the Winmbledon, US Open and the prestigious year-end WTA Tour Championships in Singapore. The ‘SanTina’ duo was crowned the best doubles pairing of the year by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman to crowned world number one in badminton earlier in the year. She has been involved in a tug-of-war all year round for it with Spaniard Carolina Marin. Nehwal reached the podium five times in 2015 out of which two were gold and three silvers. She also became the first woman from India to reach the finals of both the All England and World Championships.
The ageless wonder of tennis has refused to slow down at 42. He won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open along with Swiss Miss Martina Hingis, dominating the mixed doubles format. Also notched up 700 career wins in doubles and took his Grand Slam tally to 17, an Open Era record in doubles.
He ended 2015 ranked as the number one all-rounder in the ICC rankings and was simply brilliant against Sri Lanka and South Africa, where he won the Man-of-the-Series awards. Ashwin has established himself as the premier off-spinner in the world today and a dependable batsman in the lower order.
The first female Indian gymnast to win an international medal, Dipa Karmakar won bronze at the Asian Championships and finished fifth at the World Championships. The 22 year-old is famed for being one of the very few to have successfully completed the Produnova vault, an extremely difficult manoeuvre. The fact that she has achieved so much already despite very little support to gymnastics in the country speaks volumes of her achievements.
The master cueist is an astonishing 15-time wold champion and the only player ever to have won world titles in all formats of both Billiards and Snooker. Three of those came in 2015 and Advani has already cemented his place as a legend in the game at just 30 years of age!
The 21 year-old Ranchi-girl won a silver medal at the World Archery Championships this year and booked her seat on the flight to Rio 2016. This was her fourth silver in five years in the competition and she would hoping to move to the next level by striking gold at the Olympics.
The burly wrestler won India’s only medal in the 2015 World Championships grabbing the bronze in a thrilling encounter. This showing enabled him to book a berth for Rio to represent India in the 74 kg category.
Another 22 year-old, Shiva Thapa won a bronze at the World Amateur Championships earlier this year, sealing his berth at Rio 2016. The youngest Indian boxer to qualify for the Olympics when he featured in London 2012, Thapa is ranked three in the bantamweight category in AIBA World Rankings and is one of India strongest medal hopes of Rio.
India Women’s Hockey Team
The Indian women’s hockey team made it to the final of the EuroHockey tournament in 2015 which booked their place for the 2016 Olympics. The fact that it has happened after a long gap of 36 years makes the achievement more credible. If the likes of Rani Rampal, Ritu Rani and co. can script a sensational medal win, then it would be nothing short of a fairytale.
He was crowned the Asian Tour Order of Merit Champion in 2015 to cap off an excellent year which included tournament wins on the Asian and European Tours. A come-from-behind win at the Indian Open was termed by Lahiri as his most emotional win yet. He was also in 2015 Presidents Cup Squad, becoming the first Indian to do so and has earned the prestigious PGA Tour card for 2016. Dubbed as the ‘the new face of Indian golf’, even Tiger Woods publicly acknowledged his talents.
India Men’s Hockey Team
The men’s team too has done well and has improved to sixth in the latest FIH rankings. They won a bronze at the Hockey World League (HWL), beating powerhouses Netherlands in tense and thrilling penalty shootout. This medal took a long time coming, after a gap of around 30 odd years, in a major FIH tournament.
A special mention to Leicester City FC
This English Premier League club began 2015 by being bottom of the league, doomed to be relegated. A spectacular fightback helped them stay in the top flight and the sacking of manager Nigel Pearson was supposed to be a major blow to the players. In came Claudio Ranieri, who did some shrewd business in the transfer market and the Foxes became surprise table toppers, shared with heavyweights Arsenal at the end of 2015. From last to first in the span of a year in the highly competitive league makes their accomplishment a stunning one indeed!