Each year, a slew of young stars enter our consciousness, with team owners and managers investing in the talent of tomorrow almost as much as the talent of today. While some take longer to nurture their talent, others are slotted into the limelight from their teenage years, set to live up to their potential now, rather than later.
Khelo India, the National Programme for the development of sports in the country, continues to churn out fresh talent in priority sporting disciplines at various levels, besides providing annual financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh per annum for eight years. The Khelo India programme provides a veritable feast for us to delve into and sort the best from the rest, besides having nurtured the young pool of talents listed below. Read on to find out who we believe to be the stars of tomorrow (or, in some cases, today).
#7 Abhinav Shaw
In January last year, Abhinav Shaw, all of 10, teamed up with Mehuli Ghosh and won the gold medal in 10 m air rifle mixed team event in Khelo India Youth Games. This makes him the youngest gold medallist at Khelo Games.
Currently preparing for the India trials (youth, junior and senior categories), Abhinav has not played an international tournament yet. However, the young shooter has had early success at the national level.
Born in 2008, after India won its first individual Olympic gold medal in shooting, Abhinav Shaw was named after the greatest rifle shooter in the country - Abhinav Bindra. He wouldn’t have known that his career path was chosen on the day he was born. Shaw’s father Rupesh Kumar Shaw named Abhinav after Bindra and decided that his son would become a shooter.
He has now been training under Joydeep Karmakar for the last three years. Apart from the gold medal that he won last year, he has also won two national titles in 10m air rifle when he won the gold in the junior and youth mixed team partnering Mehuli Ghosh in November 2018.
#6 Philip Maheswaran Tabitha
PM Tabitha made the country proud by winning a gold medal at the third Asian Youth Athletics Championships in Hong Kong last year. The youngster bagged the top spot in the 100 meters hurdles race with a timing of 13.86 seconds.
After three years of consistent performance at the national-level, Tabitha received her first international call and to represent her country at the age of sixteen in one of the biggest continental events.
Tabitha used to participate in all the events, but later, her coach insisted her to concentrate only on hurdles and long jump, which she was doing better than any other event. Thus, she was selected for Asian Youth Athletics Championship after her Khelo India’s impressive performance.
When the Indian senior team returned back with two gold medals from Asian Athletics Championships, 16-year-old Tabitha alone made a similar medal haul from Asian Youth Athletics Championships. Tabitha bagged a gold in the 100 metres hurdles with a personal best time of 13.86s, and a day later, she was back on the podium with another gold, in the long jump event, leaping 5.86m.
This is just a beginning for this Tamil Nadu athlete as Tabitha and her parents have set their sight on the Olympics. Tabitha’s transition period from junior to senior will be crucial, which she is well aware of.
#5 Jeremy Lalrinnuga
To be eligible for this list, the primary requirement is, of course, that one is a talented young athlete who could feasibly make it to the pinnacle of the sport. The 17-year-old Jeremy is one of the best prospects. The weightlifter from Mizoram is in the form of his life and had started 2019 by winning a silver medal in the EGAT Trophy, where he lifted 131kg in the snatch event and 157kg in the clean and jerk category.
He followed it up with fine performances in the Asian Championships, where he smashed the Youth World and the Asian record as he managed an effort of 297kg, with 134kg in the snatch event and 163kg in the clean and jerk.
He also won the Asian Youth Championship this year besides winning a silver in the Asian Junior Championship. He, however, returned empty-handed from the World Championship, as he finished tenth with a lift of 296kg in Group B.
#4 Swadesh Mondal
Young swimmer Swadesh Mondal from Delhi achieved the phenomenal feat of winning gold medals and breaking national records in each of the five events he participated in at the National Aquatic Championship in 2018. He has already won four gold medals, including one in the relay in the recently concluded Khelo India Youth Games played in Pune.
Swadesh didn't start off with the aim of being a professional swimmer, but then took up the sport quite seriously and hasn't looked back. He won three gold medals in his first state-level competition in 2014 and his first national medal in 2015.
#3 Komalika Bari
All of 17, Komalika Bari became India’s third woman world champion in World Youth Archery and Cadet Championship in Spain this year. Jharkhand’s Paltan Hansda was the first to achieve this feat in 2006.
Komalika became India’s third woman archer world champion in the Under-18 recurve women’s category after Deepika Kumari, who had won the title in 2009.
Earlier this year, she made her international debut at the South Asian Championship and ensured herself spots on the Indian side for elite events including World Cups in Turkey and Germany, the World Championships in the Netherlands and the Olympic test event in Tokyo.
#2 Manush Shah
Hailing from Gujarat, Manush Shah emerged champion in the Under-21 section in Table Tennis at the Khelo India Youth Games last year.
Manush made India proud by winning the silver medal (in cadet boys) at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) 2016 India Junior and Cadet Open Table Tennis Championships. Besides, he had been selected in the Indian sub-junior team for the 22nd Asian Junior and Cadet Table Tennis Championship.
#1 Anshu Malik
The 18-year-old wrestler is a two-time Asian Cadet Championship medallist. She is also the Junior Asian champion in the 57kg category. While Indian juniors have no shortage of domestic wrestlers - both male and female to idolize, Malik had always been drawn to the legendary greats of Japanese pantheon.
While she has deemed her role models to be mostly foreign, Malik followed a typically Indian path to the wrestling mat. Her uncle Pawan represented India in the SAFF Games, while her father Dharamvir was a wrestler with the CRPF before retiring in order to better support his daughter.
Recently, Anshu Malik knocked out World Championship medallist Pooja Dhanda to seal her place in the Indian team for the Asian Championship last Saturday.