Of Historic medals and shattered glass ceilings: India’s greatest sporting achievements in 2023

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This year has been one that contained a number of firsts for Indians across sports. It was a year in which a number of major sporting competitions took place, almost as if providing the perfect prelude to 2024, which of course is an Olympic year. Indian athletes didn’t exactly set the stage on fire in all these events, not all did at least, but it was apparent in the competitions this year that the concept of what constitutes success is shifting for the country.

A number of glass ceilings were shattered by Indian athletes in 2023
A number of glass ceilings were shattered by Indian athletes in 2023

Indians reached finals of competitions in which reaching that last stage itself was seen as a rather unreachable dream for athletes from the country. Where reaching the final wasn’t a first, medals were won and even records were broken. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest sports moments featuring Indians this year.

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Such has been Neeraj Chopra’s success that it is easy to forget that he is only 25 years old. He went into the 2023 World Championships in Budapest as the outright favourite to clinch the gold medal and Neeraj justified that tag. He thus became just the third javelin thrower in history, after his idol Jan Zelezny and Andreas Thorkildsen to simultaneously hold their continental, World and Olympic titles simultaneously. Neeraj then went on to defend his Asian Games gold medal as well later in the year and the fact that this would be reduced to nothing more than a footnote is in itself a statement of the level he is operating in at the moment. It is just as well that he has yet to cross the 90m mark, it gives him something to work towards having won practically everything an athlete in his sport can win.

100-medal ceiling broken at the Asian Games

It was an unprecedented haul for the Indian contingent at the Hangzhou Asian Games. India ended with a total of 107 medals which included 28 gold, 38 silvers and 41 bronze. Never before had India’s medal tally at the Asiad crossed 100. Within this achievement were several remarkable feats. While Neeraj defended his title, what was just as extraordinary was that his closest competitor was Kishore Jena, with the latter even leading Neeraj at one point. Neeraj had to pull out a season’s best of 88.88m to defend his crown while Jena finished with a silver. Avinash Sable set an Asian Games record in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.

Parul Chaudhary crosses the finish line to win the women’s 5000m final, beating an astonished Ririka Hironaka of Japan, at the Asian Games in October.(AFP)
Parul Chaudhary crosses the finish line to win the women’s 5000m final, beating an astonished Ririka Hironaka of Japan, at the Asian Games in October.(AFP)

Parul Chaudhary gave fans something to remember by winning the 5000m gold with a late spurt that allowed her to overtake the leader with just a few feet left to the finish line. She became the first Indian woman to win gold in the event and moreover, it was her second medal in Hangzhou, having earlier won silver in women’s 3000m steeplechase. India’s shooting contingent won 22 medals, seven of which were gold. The men’s hockey team avoided any hiccups and raced to a gold medal, thus confirming a spot for themselves at Paris 2024.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have been at the forefront of the Indian cause in badminton for a while now but they seem to have come of age this year. The pair three BWF titles and clinched gold in the Asian Games and the Asian Badminton Championships and all of that led to them rising to the top of the men’s doubles rankings. They are the only Indians to have topped the world rankings in doubles badminton.

Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa(Hindustan Times)
Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa(Hindustan Times)

Grandmaster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa is not the first Indian to have reached the FIDE World Cup final. That distinction belongs to Viswanathan Anand but where Praggnanandhaa stands out is the fact that at 18 years of age, he is youngest ever player to have reached the title clash of the prestigious tournament. This was despite the fact that he had taken the hard route to get there, beating world No. 2 Hikaru Nakamura and world No. 3 Fabiano Caruana along the way. Praggnanandhaa ended up losing the final against the four-time world champion and Norwegian Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen but he secured a spot in the prestigious Candidates tournament in 2024.

The 2023 World Cup may have ended in heartbreak for India but there is no denying the fact that Virat Kohli put one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the tournament. In the process, he first equaled Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 ODI centuries, one that was seen as untouchable by most when the latter made it many years ago, and then surpassed it to become the first player to score 50 tons in the format. Kohli also shattered Tendulkar’s nearly two-decade old record for most runs in a single edition of the World Cup. Tendulkar had scored 673 runs in the 2003 World Cup, Kohli finished with 765 runs in 2023.

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