Just as the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic appeared to be easing, the second wave took its toll. But amid all the gloom, the sport offered a much-needed respite and boosted morale across the nation. After a demoralizing 2020 for the sport, when most of the live events were canceled, 2021 has come as a beacon of hope. From conquering the Gabba to securing the best medal tally ever for India at the Olympics, our athletes have reached major heights. The Paralympians also made us very proud, winning 19 medals, including 5 gold.
It was also a great year for our athletes from the North East. The nation has taken note of the special performances of our sports superstars. Today, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the region has shown immense promise and is slowly but surely building itself as the sporting power of the nation.
Let’s take a look back at some of those special performances by our superheroes that have made us immensely proud this year.
- Mirabai Chanu, Lovlina Bogohain and Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma – The Super Olympians
Athletes from the North East had a key role to play as India returned with a harvest of 7 Olympic medals this year – their best. Saikhom Mirabai Chanu of Manipur won the first medal with a silver medal in women’s weightlifting (49 kg). It was also India’s very first Olympic weightlifting silver medalist.
Another Manipuri got his name on the medal list as Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma, as a member of the Indian men’s hockey team, won the bronze medal, after beating Germany 5-4 in the match for the bronze medal. Assam boxer Lovlina Borgohain (69kg women) also won a bronze medal, after losing her semifinal fight 0-5 to Busenaz Surmeneli. It was India’s first Olympic boxing medal in nine years.
- Manipur – Winners of the National Women’s Football Championship
The Manipur women’s football team continued their dominant run in the tournament by winning their 21st National Senior Women’s Football Championship title. They defended their title by beating Railways 2-1 in a penalty shootout. The match ended 0-0 after extra time. What makes the victory more special and proves their dominance is the fact that Manipur has won the tournament 21 times out of the 26 editions held. The tournament is organized by the Indian Football Federation.
- Bishal Changmai – Gold medal archer at the World Junior Championships
Teenage sensation Bishal Changmai, as a member of the Indian archery team, won 3 medals, including two gold, at the Youth World Championships in Wroclaw, Poland. The adolescent recurve archer won three U18 medals; two gold medals were won by men’s team and by mixed team and he also won an individual bronze medal. Bishal is from Bokakhat, Assam, and it’s interesting that archery wasn’t the first sport he fell in love with. Growing up, his favorite sport was swimming, but a visit to an archery camp in his hometown drew him to archery. Soon he was selected for SAI, Guwahati and then joined the Pune Army Sports Institute. His immediate goal is to perform well in the senior category as well.
- Soman Rana – Paralympian and gold medalist at the Tunis Para-athletics World Grand Prix and at the Para-athletics National Championships
Soman Rana from Meghalaya was the epitome of courage and perseverance. Soman, who lost his right leg to a mine blast injury, qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics earlier this year. Although he missed a medal and finished fourth in the F57 shot put with a throw of 13.81m, his story has nonetheless inspired millions of people in the region. In addition to his Paralympic exploits, he also won gold medals at the World Para-athletics Grand Prix in Tunis and the National Para-athletics Championships. Soman was admitted to the Army Paralympic Knot in 2017.
- Jeremy Lalrinnunga’s gold at the Commonwealth Championships
Jeremy Lalrinnunga is without a doubt one of the brightest prospects in this part of the world. He brought glory to the nation when in 2021 he won gold in the 67kg category at the Commonwealth Championships. Jeremy had lifted 305 kg (141 kg + 164 kg) in the men’s 67 kg event. The Mizoram weightlifter made headlines when he became the first Indian to win a gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018. Coming from a family of sports fans, he started his journey as a boxer and then moved on to weightlifting. The son of a national junior champion boxer, Jeremy began training at the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in Pune when he was only 10 years old. He’s already posted a lot of promises and all eyes will be on Jeremy when he represents the nation at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
- Phoebe Dale Nongrum – Podiumed at 23rd JK Tire FMSCI National Racing Championship
Phoebe Dale Nongrum of Meghalaya is North East India’s first female Formula 4 driver. Earlier this year, she made history with a podium finish at the 23rd JK Tire FMSCI National Racing Championship held in Coimbatore. An avid runner, Phoebe has been racing since the age of 12.
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