Neeraj's Tokyo Victory, Team India's Overseas Heroics & The Other Indian Sports Triumphs of 2021

© REUTERS / ROGAN WARDCricket - First Test - South Africa v India - SuperSport Park Cricket Stadium, Pretoria, South Africa - December 30, 2021 India players celebrate taking the wicket of South Africa's Lungi Ngidi and winning the match REUTERS/Rogan Ward
Cricket - First Test - South Africa v India - SuperSport Park Cricket Stadium, Pretoria, South Africa - December 30, 2021 India players celebrate taking the wicket of South Africa's Lungi Ngidi and winning the match REUTERS/Rogan Ward - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.01.2022
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The year 2021 did not just feature the Olympics, but Indian sporting highlights as well. For the first time in their history, the south Asian nation's players returned with seven medals from the biggest sporting stage in the world and the Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team breached such opposition fortresses as the Gabba and Centurion.
Victories, rifts, controversies, performance anxiety, historic feats - 2021 was the year when Indian sports stars made all sorts of headlines with Neeraj Chopra's gold medal heroics at Tokyo Olympics topping the list.
Sputnik looks back at India's biggest sporting moments of the year.

Neeraj Chopra Claims Historic Olympic Gold in Tokyo

In August, Indian javelin megastar Neeraj Chopra joined legendary shooter Abhinav Bindra to become the second Indian to clinch a gold medal at the Olympics.

Neeraj's Tokyo triumph was also the country's first Olympic medal in athletics.

The 24-year-old native of Haryana wasn't the overwhelming favourite to win the event, however: world champion Johannes Vetter had consistently hit the 90-metre mark before the quadrennial sports competition in the Japanese capital.

But once the German made an early departure in the final, Chopra became almost unstoppable.

After a throw of 87.03 metres in his first attempt, Neeraj went on to clear a distance of 87.58 metres in his second, and was the only athlete to cross the 87-metre mark in the final.
Jakub Vadlejch and Vitezslav Vesely - both from the Czech Republic - grabbed silver and bronze with throws of 86.67 metres and 85.44 metres respectively.

Indian Team Conquers All in Test Cricket

Virat Kohli and his men began 2021 by laying waste Brisbane's fortress Gabba as the Indian cricket team became the first Asian side to beat the Kangaroos in a Test match at the venue.
And earlier this week, Kohli and his teammates conquered Centurion, South Africa's best venue where the Proteas have only lost twice in their preceding 26 matches.
The Indian team stormed to a comprehensive 113-run victory over the South Africans after dominating the game from start to finish, thus concluding 2021 with yet another memorable triumph on Thursday.
Before their historic win at the SuperSport Park, Kohli and his colleagues had defeated England twice at home.

The first triumph was at Lord's, widely known as the "Mecca of cricket" where India sealed a sensational 151-run victory over England, before following it up with another commanding performance at the Kennington Oval to trounce the hosts by 157 runs.

India's wins in England, Australia and South Africa took their tally of overseas victories to four in 2021 - their highest number in a calendar year.

Virat Kohli, Indian Cricket Board Engage in Verbal Duel Over ODI Captaincy

Although 2021 was a sparkling year for Virat Kohli the captain, it wasn't so good for Kohli the cricketer.

First, the star batsman was engaged in an ugly confrontation with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after he was stripped of his captaincy of the country's One-Day International (ODI) team.

The row kicked off when the Indian squad for South Africa was announced. But the whole ignominy of the affair became clear when Kohli revealed that he hadn't been informed about the decision in advance.

Kohli's statement was in direct contrast with what BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly had said. Ganguly, a legendary Indian cricketer himself, had claimed that the selectors had begged Kohli not to quit the T20I captaincy and he also had prior information about the change in leadership in the ODIs.

The controversy still continues to rage in the south Asian nation, with chief selector Chetan Sharma presenting his own version of the sequence of events.

According to former cricketers, Sharma has poured a little more fuel on the fire as he disclosed that Kohli was only asked to postpone his exit as T20I captain.

Manu Bhaker's Pistol Gives Her 'Pain' in Tokyo

The poor run suffered by India's great hope in shooting, Manu Bhaker, especially the technical glitch that her pistol experienced during the 10 metre air pistol qualification event at the Tokyo Olympics caused a massive debate back home.

Bhaker was one of the prime contenders to claim a medal in shooting for the nation of more than a billion. But she was left in tears after her pistol encountered a snag as she fired the 16th shot.

Before her gun malfunctioned, everything was going according to plan for Bhaker: she was in fourth position at that point and was well on her way to the final. The top eight qualify for the finals.

At that stage, Bhaker had 55 minutes to take her next 44 shots, but the repair work on her gun took 17 minutes and she was left with only 38 minutes to finish her qualification round.

The forced break shattered her dream of winning a medal at the Olympics as the teenager failed to progress to the finals at the Asaka Shooting Range.

Eventually, the highly talented markswoman left Tokyo empty-handed, the victim not only of cruel fate but of a malfunctioning machine as well.

Indian Hockey Team's Long Wait for an Olympic Medal Ends in Japan

India finally ended its 41-year-long wait for an Olympic medal in field hockey in Tokyo as the men's hockey team, led by Manpreet Singh, managed to conquer four-time champions Germany 5-4 in the bronze medal contest.
Playing their first medal match at the Olympics in more than four decades, the Indian side opened the proceedings against Germany on a disappointing note, conceding an early goal in the first quarter.
However, the Indians regrouped quickly as they equalised in the net quarter before raising their intensity to unprecedented levels to match the Germans stroke for stroke.

Subsequently, the match transformed into a seesaw battle as both sides continued to raise their level after the other gained any sort of advantage.

After the Germans doubled their lead to 3-1, Manpreet and his boys clawed their way back in the match, levelling the score thanks to Hardik Singh and Harmanpreet Singh's strikes at the end of the first half.

Afterwards, India lifted their game to spectacular heights, as Rupinder Pal Singh's penalty stroke in the third quarter and Simranjeet Singh's smart tactics secured their first Olympic medal since the 1980 Moscow Games.

Kidambi Srikanth's Glorious Silver at World Badminton Championships

Last month, Kidambi Srikanth made history as he became the first Indian male player to clinch a medal at the World Badminton Championships.

Although Srikanth lost to Singapore's Loh Kean Yew in straight games in the final, it was still a moment to cherish for men's badminton in India.

Apart from the feats of legendary Prakash Padukone and current national coach Pullela Gopichand, both of whom had won the prestigious All England Open title in 1980 and 2001 respectively, it has been the female shuttlers who have claimed all the limelight in the country in the past 15 years or so.

The result was even more important for Srikanth, considering he had struggled to achieve much success in men's singles since his breakthrough season in 2017.
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