(December 28, 2022) It has been a year of sports for India. From our young guns’ marvellous performance at the Commonwealth Games to sports stars like Nikhat Zareen, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Neeraj Chopra, and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa securing gold at the individual world tournaments – India established itself as a global force in 2022. With these champions at the helm, the future of Indian sports does look good.
Global Indian takes a look at some glorious podium finishers, who have proved India’s mettle in the world of sports this year.
Nikhat Zareen, boxer
2022 proved to be a golden year for Indian boxer, Nikhat Zareen. The sports champion, who started her journey as the only girl in Nizamabad’s boxing academy, won several gold medals in various international boxing championships held this year, including the Commonwealth Games, IBA Women’s World Championship, and Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament. And on November 30, the pint-sized boxer was conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award by the President of India, Droupadi Murmu. “It’s an absolute honour to be conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award by the Hon’ble President of India Smt. Droupadi Murmu Ji. Gratitude to the Almighty for guiding me on my journey and to all those who shared it with me. Onwards and upwards!” the champion tweeted after receiving the Arjuna Award.
Currently, at the national camp taking place at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, the flyweight boxer is training hard to claim many more medals for the country. “I took a short leave to visit my family in Nizamabad after winning the World Championship. But I am back at the training camp now. My next aim is the 2024 Paris Olympics. I dream of winning gold there for my nation,” Nikhat said.
Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, chess grandmaster
17-year-old chess grandmaster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, who has conquered the world in the war of checkmates, has been conferred the Arjuna Award in 2022. In 2016, Praggnanandhaa (meaning ‘delight of the intellect’) became the youngest international master in history, at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days. The coveted ‘Grandmaster’ title that he earned later at the age of 12 made him the fifth youngest person ever to do so. Fondly called ‘Pragg’, the prodigy defeated world champion Magnus Carlsen three times in a row in 2022, thus becoming a household name.
The grandmaster began traveling abroad for tournaments at the tender age of seven. “I have lost count,” the champion said, pausing to think about it. “I have probably visited 30 countries.” No matter where he goes, his focus remains unwavering, concentrating on one thing only – the game that he is there to play.
Akhil Rabindra, racing driver
Fascinated by cars since a very young age, racer Akhil Rabindra went from enjoying recreational go-karting on weekends to becoming the first Asian to be selected by the Aston Martin Racing Driver Academy. In fact, the champion kicked off its 2020 season with the French FFSA GT4 Championship, one of Europe’s strongest GT National Championships.
“The Aston Martin Racing Academy was a big achievement,” shares the Indian racer, adding, “They help in many different fronts such as physical and mental training, the technique of driving, and a lot of on and off stuff. They are not just focused on the driving part but it is a holistic approach to teaching. It is also the network as you get to interact with drivers who would help you out in different situations. They help tap into different forms of support with ease,” he said.
The champion, who recently won the Driver’s Championship which recently concluded in Hyderabad Street Circuit, also secured a double podium finish in the season opener with his new team, Racing Spirit of Leman, at the European GT4 Championship.
Aadil Bedi, golfer
He might be only 21, but golfer Aadil Bedi has already made a name for himself in the world of sports. The champion, who was recently crowned winner of the inaugural Ballantine’s Golf Championship – Mixed Pro Challenge, picked up a golf stick for the first time when he was just four years old. “From that moment on, I was hooked,” shared the young champion.
Inspired by his father, Aadil took part in numerous golf championships from a young age and in 2018, became the youngest player to represent India in golf at the Asian Games. Training hard to win as many international tournaments, the young golfer wishes to bring home several coveted trophies. “There were no matches in the last two years. I am preparing very hard to win as many titles as possible. I am a part of tournaments in Indonesia, Singapore, and Korea, taking place later this year. There is an event in Australia as well. Frankly, I will be playing about 10-12 tournaments in the coming year. I am very excited to represent India internationally,” the champion said.
Shrivalli Rashmikaa Bhamidipaty, tennis player
Crowned as the national hardcourt tennis champion (women’s singles), Shrivalli Rashmikaa Bhamidipaty was only 11 when she first held a tennis racket in her hand. Calling herself an “accidental” tennis player, Shrivalli was introduced to the game at the Lal Bahadur stadium in Hyderabad. Recording twin victories as the champion entered the singles quarterfinals and doubles semi-finals of the Balaji Amines Solapur Open Women’s ITF $25K Tennis Tournament, she is passionate and focussed. “I think all players feel nervous before a match. I do too. But I am confident that I can play against, and defeat, any player,” shared the youngster.
The champion dreams of representing India at the Olympics and works at her aspirations without compromise. Her day begins at 4.15 am and training continues for between five and six hours a day. And along the way, she hopes to win as many cups as she can for her country. “I will be participating in several upcoming national and international tournaments. But a dream come true will be representing India at the Olympics and winning gold for the country,” shared the tennis star.