Indian sports had enough reasons to celebrate in 2018, other than cricket. After a successful Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, the Asian Games in Indonesia paved the way for a successful sporting year for the country at the global stage. And in all these successful campaigns, it were the young sporting prodigies, who were at the forefront.
If the shooting contingent and the table-tennis team made India proud at Gold Coast, it was the turn of the athletics team to take home the honours at the Asiad. The upcoming sporting stars of India also showed their true worth at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires in Argentina, where India came up with their record-breaking medal haul.
As 2018 draws to an end, here’s a look at India’s young sporting talents who brought out their A-game this year for India:
Prithvi Shaw (Cricket)
Cricketer Prithvi Shaw, who had already become a household name before his international debut for the senior side, had a dream run in 2018.
After a splendid 2017-18 domestic season for Mumbai, Shaw tasted success pretty early in the year when he led the Indian side to their fourth Under-19 title. India remained unbeaten in the tournament.
Earlier in January, Shaw was picked up by the Delhi Daredevils in the 2018 IPL auction for Rs 1.2 crores as he became the youngest player to open batting in the IPL history at the age of 18 and 165 days. Later in the tournament, he went onto become the joint youngest player to score an IPL fifty along with Sanju Samson (in 18 years and 169 days).
Shaw made his Test debut against West Indies on 4 October 2018 and became the youngest batsman to make a Test century on debut for India (18 years and 329 days). After a good show in the second Test also, Shaw was named as the Player of the Series.
Unfortunately, Shaw, who was part of the Test squad, which is in Australia, had to be ruled out of the four-match Test series after he sustained an ankle injury in the one-off practice game.
Hima Das (Athletics)
Known as the Dhing Express, Hima Das was probably the biggest thing in the Indian athletics circuit this year.
Hima shot into the limelight in July 2018, after she became the first India sprinter to win a gold medal at any international track event. Hima bagged the gold in the 400 m event at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships in Tampere, Finland, clocking 51.46 seconds.
After her maiden triumph at the international stage, Hima was on a roll at the Asiad. In the 400m, she won a silver after breaking the national record twice. First in the heats and then later in the final. She, along with M R Poovamma, Sarita Gayakwad and V K Vismaya also won the women's 4×400 metres relay. To complete a triple haul, Hima clinched a silver medal in the 4×400 m mixed relay.
To top of a great year, Hima, who started her career in football, was conferred with Arjuna Award by the President of India on 25 September 2018.
Manu Bhaker (Shooting)
The shooting prodigy from Jhajjar in Haryana owned the shooting circuit in 2018.
She started the year on a high, winning gold medal in the Women's 10-meter air pistol defeating, a two-time champion Mexico's Alejandra Zavala. At 16, Bhaker became the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the World Cup.
Bhaker won her second gold medal at the World Cup in the 10-meter air pistol mixed team event, along with Om Prakash Mitharval.
At 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Bhaker clinched gold medal in the women's 10m air pistol event with 240.9 points. In the process, she set a new Games record.
After a disappointing Asiad, Manu made a grand comeback at the Youth Olympics 2018, where she was India’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony. She secured Gold at the women’s 10m air pistol event to become the first shooter from India and the first female athlete from India to grab a gold medal at the Youth Olympics games.
Saurabh Chaudhary (Shooting)
The year 2018 belonged to India’s shooting stars. After Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary was the next Indian to make a mark in the international shooting scene this year.
Saurabh started exceling in the middle of the year. It was at Asian Games in Jakarta, Saurabh won the first gold medal of the year. He followed it with a gold medal at the Junior ISSF World Championships. Saurabh completed his hat-trick of gold medal at the Youth Olympics 2018 in Argentina later this year.
Later in November, he won three gold medals at the Asian Airgun Championship to become the only Indian shooter to win gold medal at the Youth Olympic, Asian games, Junior ISSF world championships and Asian Airgun championships.
Anish Bhanwala (Shooting)
The 15-year-old shooter from Karnal in Haryana became the youngest Indian gold medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games when he won the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol event.
Gold Coast 2018 wasn’t the first time Anish tasted success at the global circuit. In 2017, Anish won a total of five medals – two gold, two silver and one bronze at the ISSF Junior World Championship. In the same year, he added a silver to his tally at the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in 25m Rapid Fire Men category.
Anish had a successful outing at the Junior World Cup this year. After winning a gold and silver in Sydney, Anish won a bronze and two gold medals at Suhl. His medals came in both individual and team events.
Manika Batra (Table Tennis)
India’s top-ranked female table tennis player, Manika Batra, had an unprecedented run in 2018. At the Commonwealth Games 2018, Manika won 4 medals in 4 events she was participating out of which 2 are gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal.
Manika led the Indian women's team to a gold medal win in the final against four-time gold medalists and defending champions Singapore at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
In the final, Manika beat world number 4 Feng Tianwei and Zhou Yihan in India's 3–1 win in the final.
Later, Manika and Mouma Das bagged India's maiden silver medal in the women's doubles category at the 2018 Commonwealth Games
Manika is the first Indian woman to win a Commonwealth table tennis individual gold medal. She defeated Yu Mengyu of Singapore in Gold Coast.
Manika finished the year winning a bronze in the mixed doubles category at 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
Lakshya Sen (Badminton)
The former number one junior singles player, was already a name to reckon with in India’s junior badminton circuit since 2016.
After a great 2016 and 2017 in the junior category, Lakshya emerged as the champion at the 2018 Asian Junior Championships defeating the top seeded World No. 1 Kunlavut Vitidsarn in the final.
Lakshya won the hard-fought final 21-19 and 21-18.
Lakshya, who had already started competing in the senior international level since 2016, settled for a bronze at the World Junior Championships in the Boy’s Singles category.
Lakshya entered the 2018 Youth Olympics as the fourth seed and won a silver in the singles category. He also competed in the mixed team event, and won the gold medal.
Lakshya ended the year on a high. He won in the men’s singles category at the Tata Open India International Challenge 2018 again beating Kunlavut Vitidsarn.
Jeremy Lalrinnunga (Weightlifting)
India’s youngest weightlifting sensation from Mizoram, Jeremy Lalrinnunga, scripted history when he bagged India’s maiden gold medal the Youth Olympics.
The 15-year-old from Aizwal, lifted a total weight of 274 kg to win the gold at the 2018 edition of the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Earlier this year, Jeremy claimed a silver (youth) and (youth) and a bronze (junior) in the Asian Championships, breaking two national records in the process.
Sonia Chahal (Boxing)
Coming into 2018, boxer Sonia Chahal only had National Championships medal to her name. But this year turned out to be her breakthrough year, as he finished with a silver medal at her maiden Women’s World Boxing Championships in New Delhi.
Sonia lost to Ornella Gabriele Wahner of Germany 1-4 in the 57 kg category. But on her way to the final, the boxer from Nimri in Haryana punched above her weight to go past big names in the boxing circuit.
Sonia made her way into the quarterfinals after defeating Stanimira Petrova, a seasoned boxer from Bulgaria. In the quarter-finals, Sonia downed another veteran boxer in the shape of Columbia’s Marcela Yeni Castaneda. Sonia excelled in the semi-finals to defeat Son Hwa-Jo of North Korea.
The 21-year-old has emulated Mary Kom’s feat of winning a silver on the world meet debut.
India’s U-20 and U-16 Football Team
Indian football is slowly but surely moving in the right direction. As the big boys prepare for the AFC Asia Cup next year, the Indian colts made the right noise in 2018.
In August 2018, both the U-20 and the U-16 side punched above their weight to stun six-time U-20 world champions Argentina and Asian U-16 champions Iraq respectively.
The U-20 brigade beat Argentina 2-1 despite being reduced to ten men in an exciting contest at the COTIF Cup in Valencia.
While the U-20 team was busy upsetting the South American giants in Spain, their U-16 counterparts stunned Asian giant Iraq with a 1-0 victory in the WAFF U-16 Championship in Jordan. This was the first-ever victory for any Indian football team against Iraq in any format and among all age groups.
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