Yesterday, while promoting his show ‘Walk The Talk’, senior journalist Shekhar Gupta tweeted “Meet India’s only truly world-class athlete, and it’s not Virat Kohli” to introduce the young sensation, Neeraj Chopra.
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) September 23, 2018
While Neeraj Chopra is without a doubt a world class athlete and India’s biggest hope for a medal in Athletics, calling him the only world-class athlete in India does a huge disservice to a number of fine athletes representing India.
No wonder Abhinav Bindra, another world-class athlete, was not amused by this comment and expressed his disappointment at this ‘ignorance’ by Shekhar Gupta.
Only? That’s a terrible insight on Indian sport ! #ignorance
— Abhinav Bindra OLY (@Abhinav_Bindra) September 24, 2018
Even leaving Cricketers aside (And just for the record, Virat Kohli is not just world class, he is on the way to becoming an all-time great), and concentrating only on Olympic Sports, it is simply not true. On the track, India has the World Junior Champion Hima Das who stormed to a Gold medal in the Asian Games recently and at just 20 years of age, is only going to get better in the coming years.
In badminton, we have 2 women and 2 men in Top 10 world rankings, surely enough to make them world class? In recently concluded World Shooting Championship, India won 2 Golds, 4 Silvers, 1 Bronze (considering senior only) but maybe Ankur Mittal and Om Prakash Mitharwal aren’t world class enough even though they are world champions.
On the wrestling mat, even though Sushil Kumar is at the twilight of his career, we have Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Divya Kakran, Pooja Dhanda and many many more who continue to do well on the world stage. In the boxing ring, 5 times World Champion MC Mary Kom is still around (she added Commonwealth Gold to her long list of plaudits this year) and is preparing for the Olympics 2020 where she will once again be hoping for a medal.
Not to forget, our ‘National Game’ Hockey, where India jumped ahead of Germany recently in the rankings and moved to the 5th spot in the men’s game, surely good enough to be called world class? Even in women’s game, India did really well in the recent World Championship, reaching the Quarter Finals before being beaten in a penalty shoot-out by eventual runners-up Ireland.
In addition, the Indian Paralympians, Mariyappan Thangavelu and Devendra Jhajaria returned with Gold Medals from the 2016 Summer Games while Deepa Malik (list of medals won by her is too long to share here, just google her) won Silver, and Varun Bhati returned with Bronze medal.
These are just some of the names that popped into my head after reading that comment by Mr Gupta that India has only one world-class athlete. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many more outstanding individuals who are part of the sporting renaissance in India as we look to claim our spot among the top countries in the sporting world.
So, no Mr Gupta, we don’t have only one World Class athlete, it makes for a catchy line to promote a TV show but it is far from the truth.