Five sporting successes in 2015 that may have escaped your attention

Five sporting successes in 2015 that may have escaped your attention
Photo Credit: Manan Vatsyayana / AFP
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Indian sports lovers can look back fondly on 2015, with athletes doing the country proud with their achievements across various disciplines.

Tennis star Sania Mirza deserves much praise after winning nine titles this year with her doubles partner Martina Hingis. In cricket, the Indian team reached the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup. And in hockey, the men’s team won an impressive bronze at the Hockey World League Final.

Indian badminton’s resurgence continued this year as more Indian men and women played their way to prominence in the world rankings.

But these were the usual headline-grabbers. Several sporting achievements got lost in the din. As the year comes to an end, here’s a look at some of the sporting successes that you may have missed.

1. The inspiring show at the Special Olympics

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This is a story which invokes pride and admiration in equal measure. At the Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Los Angeles in July, the Indian contingent returned with 173 medals, finishing third after the United States and China.

There were some heart-warming stories that emerged. Ranveer Singh Saini, 14, was diagnosed with autism as a child but overcame his struggles to win gold at one of the golf events.

Then there was Phoolan Devi, an athlete from a charitable home in Delhi, who was abandoned when she was 16. At the Special Olympics, Devi showed indefatigable spirit to bag gold at the power-lifting competition and won three bronze medals as well.

2. The Para badminton team’s medal haul at the World Championships

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India’s shuttlers returned with an impressive haul of 11 medals at the Para-Badminton World Championships in Stoke Mandeville in England in September. Four of those medals were gold and eight Indian players made it to the finals in various categories.

Their victory provided a much-needed fillip after the Paralympic Committee of India was de-recognised by the Union sports ministry and the International Paralympic Committee.

3. Thakur Anoop Singh’s gold at the World Bodybuilding Championships

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The 2008 economic recession forced Thakur Anoop Singh to quit his career as a pilot. Seven years on, this burly six-footer won gold at the World Bodybuilding Championships in Thailand earlier this month. Also famous for essaying the role of Dhritarashtra in a 2011 television re-telling of the Mahabharata, Singh started participating in fitness events and steadily moved up the ranks. But this year has been his crowning glory. He beat off competition from 47 other bodybuilders from different countries to win the gold and become only the second Indian to win an international bodybuilding event.

4. Women stake their claim in cue sports

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Pankaj Advani scaled new heights in cue sports in 2015, winning his 15th world title. But Advani had other Indian company at the top. The women’s final for the World Billiards Championship held in Adelaide in September was an all-Indian affair. Pune’s Arantxa Sanchis eventually emerged the winner after defeating Bengaluru’s Revanna Umadevi Nagaraj.

This was Sanchis’ second major title after she won gold at a team event at the World Snooker Championship in 2013. It gave Sanchis, who has battled a rare degenerative eye disorder since childhood, the rare distinction of being the only Indian woman cueist to win world titles in both snookers and billiards.

5. Abhishek Verma’s historic medal at the Archery World Cup

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It was a year to remember for Delhi’s Abhishek Verma.  At the third leg of the Archery World Cup in Poland, held on India’s Independence Day, the 26-year-old won gold in the compound individual men’s event. He followed that up with an even bigger achievement in October. At the finals in Mexico, Verma became the first Indian to win a medal at the Archery World Cup finals, finishing runner-up in the same category.