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India's teenage athletes who are projected to be future stars

Indias teenage athletes who are projected to be future stars

The Bridge Desk

Published: 29 Jan 2021 12:13 PM GMT

Youth sporting success and rearing of home-grown talent has been a major success in certain sports over the past decade. We take a look at a few upcoming teenage sensations in the Indian sporting sphere who have made great strides so far and are also projected to be the best in their field in the years to come.

Moirangthem Thoiba Singh: Football

The ISL might have given Indian football fame and fortune but it has also given hope and a platform for youngsters to shine. One amongst the many sensations to have made a breakthrough over the past year is an 18-year-old named Thoiba Singh. Signed last year by Odisha FC, he holds the record both for the youngest player to make an appearance in an Indian football league at the age of 15 as well as being the youngest ever goal scorer in the AFC Cup. He was with Minerva Punjab for two years before signing for Odisha FC and this definitely helped him hone his skills and talent as a midfielder. He is currently signed on a three-year contract and will be looking forward to the forthcoming years in the ISL.

Shafali Verma: Cricket

“I asked my father if I could play under his name”. This is the length to which Shafali Verma went to pursue her passion for cricket by playing as her brother and cutting her hair off to join a ‘male dominated sport’. She is not just the most promising youngster in the world of women’s cricket but is a role model for young girls to follow in the years to come. Shafali was never discouraged despite the societal issues that came her way in her hometown of Rohtak. By maintain her steadfast perseverance, she made her T20 debut in 2019 for India at the age of 15 years and 239 days and her knock of 73 of 49 balls a few weeks later made her the youngest ever Indian to score a half century in first class cricket. Together with the established and experienced Indian batting top order, there is a lot to expect from Shafali and her cricketing career.

Huidrom Thoi Singh: Football

Bengaluru Fc has made a few youth acquisitions in the past few years, but none is as exciting as Thoi Singh. The 16-year-old has been trained and developed in the Reliance Youth Foundation after he was discovered back home in Manipur. It has only been an upward trajectory from his days of winning accolades at local tournaments. He now stands alongside his idol Sunil Chetri and plays for Bengaluru FC. Carles Cuadrat describes him as comfortable and competitive while Sunil Chetri raved about his confidence and hunger as a player. His player profile is one that would catch the eye of any manager. As an attacker he is ambidextrous, full of pace and has a knack for dribbling as well. He has taken centre stage at several tournaments such as the MDFA Super Division, AIFF Youth League etc with his brilliant skills and team play and is all set to take his game a notch higher in the coming years.

Saurabh Chaudhary: Shooting

Widely regarded as India’s best hope of a Gold Medal at the next Olympics, Saurabh Chaudhary owes a lot of his success to his humble beginnings in Kalia, a small village near Meerut. Growing up, training was difficult given the dearth of space and facilities in his town and he had to travel 15km one way to ensure he got adequate practice. There can be no doubts about him being a future star given his impressive track record at International shooting events in the past couple of years. Apart from being a Youth Olympic Gold Medallist, he is also a world record holder, an Asian Games Champion and a consecutive multi event champion in several ISSF World Cups. India has continued to dominate competitive shooting events across the world and Saurabh is the perfect leader to propel India to its next Olympic Gold Medal in the coming months.

Anshu Malik: Wrestling

With Haryana being the conveyor belt of Indian wrestling stars, it only makes sense that Anshu Malik and her superb skills have their origin in Nidani, Haryana. Wrestling for her is a genetic concept which runs in her blood. It was her father who decided to take teach her the trade after she expressed her wish to learn the sport. There has been no looking back for the 18-year-old who was the Junior Asia Champion as well as the gold medallist in the World and Asian Cadet Championships. She takes her inspiration from Japanese wrestlers and champions such as Icho Kaori who she looks at for their technique and skill. Anshu has a long way to go for her career and it definitely helps to have age on her side with such a promising career ahead of her.

Naorem Roshibina Devi: Wushu

Wushu might not be in the news every other day but for Roshibina Devi, the sport is all about the grit and perseverance that makes her strive for Gold. The 18-year-old had clinched a bronze medal at the previous edition of the Asian Games in Jakarta, much to the delight of her native district Bishnupur, Manipur. Two years later she continues to practice and persevere for other international events not just to achieve the accolades she deserves but to also put a name out there for a sport that has given her a way of life. Wushu is one sport that has often been ignored from the mainstream sporting narrative in India and this has often led to little or no attention for those who excel and win medals. This too shall change in the coming years with talented individuals like Roshibina Devi.

Lakshya Sen: Badminton

There are very few youngsters who have been able to maintain their consistent performances at the International stage over time. One such sportsperson is Lakshya Sen. He has dominated various Asian Badminton events such as the India International Championships and the 2018 Asian Junior Championships which he won triumphantly. He is also a silver medallist at the youth Olympics and has over a short career, defeated several top seeded players in his age group. He has won 2 BWF tours and 7 BWF Challenges as well and held the first rank in the BWF World Junior rankings back in 2017. His agility, speed and reflexes have all come in handy through years of training and hard work. Lakshya needs no introduction to the world of sport given his accolades and is one to watch out for in the future amongst the several teenage sensations in Indian sports.

Manu Bhaker: Shooting

She currently has a total medal kitty of 19 International medals with an individual haul of 17 Gold and 2 silver. She has defeated top ranked shooters time and again at National and International events and has continued her fine run since she began competitive shooting. Hailing form the Jhajjar district in Haryana, Manu Bhaker is the ‘Jack’ of several sports (having excelled at Boxing, Tennis and Skating) and the ‘Master of one(shooting). Her self-belief and perseverance even when training without a coach as a youngster has brought her to where she is today. Keeping aside individual laurels, Manu Bhaker is a strong contender for a podium finish at the upcoming Olympic Games and is brimming with confidence and self-belief from her achievements in the past few years.

Shaili Singh: Athletics

The next ‘Anju Bobby George’ seems to have be literally making strides in leaps and bounds. The 16-year-old is a two-time National record holder in the Under 15 category and has even bettered the Under 18 record through her jumps despite being two years younger. Robert Bobby George, who is currently her coach, stated “I see her as being the face of Indian track and field in the next few years. For her age if you compare her to athletes around the world, she is fantastic.” Shaili Singh shifted away from her home in Uttar Pradesh at a very young age in order to train and get the best possible advice from coaches who saw her potential. So far, she is faring well having qualified for the World Junior Championships in Kenya last year which was sadly postponed. There is immense scope for Shaili Singh in the years to come given that she is already putting in great performances at a young age.

Komalika Bari: Archery

Studies and sports are the biggest dilemma for teenagers and there are few who manage to reap the awards of both. Komalika Bari is one such archer who brought home the Gold at the World Archery Youth and Cadet Championships held in Madrid. She enrolled for the archery under the tutelage of Sushanto Patro and her progress and talent came as a surprise to everyone. It was from here that her sporting career took off with major success at the Khelo India games in 2019 and the National Games where she claimed a Gold(singles), Silver(doubles) and Bronze(mixed) in different events. Komalika Bari has won praise from her coaches and their confidence in her is immensely high. They believe that her next few years in the sport will be crucial in terms of physical and mental development if she has to chieve big things in the future.

Sharmila Devi: Hockey

The 19-year-old currently lines up alongside stars such as Rani Rampal for the Indian Hockey team. Brought up in Hisar, her passion for the game since childhood and exemplary performances for the Women’s Junior team brought her to the first IX of the National team where she scored a goal during the Olympic Qualifiers against the U.S.A. She is currently the youngest member of the team and made her debut during a test match in Tokyo in August 2019. Racking up 9 appearances for the national team is no joke and with several years’ worth of her career left, Sharmila Devi will be looking for an established role before the team leaves for the Tokyo Olympics in the coming months.

Also read: Which are the 10 largest sports stadiums in India?

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