India is known to produce a multitude of meticulous and prodigal talents the world has ever witnessed. The country saw the sporting fraternity unleash several domestic talents and younger crops of skillful athletes at an early age this year. While the talent and glimpses of brilliance are there for everyone to see, The Bridge tracks down fifteen such young athletes who are flexing their muscles to secure the country’s entry into the superpower realm, by breaking the mould and sparking on the highest stage.
*Not based on rankings. The numbers are in no particular order.
#15 Naveen Kumar
The youngster emerged as a stellar performer for his Dabang Delhi team. Having scored Super 10 in 21 of 22 matches, Naveen’s jerky footwork has enabled him to collect touchpoints in pressure situations. He smashed his debut season record of 172 raid points as he scored 283 raid points at an unbeaten average of 12.9. The teenage sensation of Pro Kabaddi 2019 is by far the only raider among the top five raiders to have had zero failed raids in any match.
For the 19-year-old, kabaddi started with a routined evening practice in a muddy turf in the village. The game lacked media attention, and even stadiums, drawing lesser than a narrow coverage that led him to doubt the sacrifices made in pursuit of achieving the desired athletic glory and public glare. Besides, economic strain stampeded young Naveen during the initial years of his training but he chose to shine through. He now aspires to participate in Kabaddi Olympics and bring the coveted gold medal to the country.
#14 Diksha Dagar
Born deaf, 18-year-old golfer Diksha Dagar wrote her own piece of history as she became the youngest Indian woman to win on the famed Ladies European Tour (LET) on March 16 this year. Left-hander Diksha is popularly known for her brand of aggressive and fearless golf. While playing at India’s biggest women’s pro event, the Hero Women’s Indian Open in 2016, Diksha, making her first appearance, finished as the top amateur.
She clinched the sliver for India at the Deaflympics in Turkey in 2017. Having been an amateur, Diksha won a Women’s Golf Association of India pro event. She also represented India at the Queen Sirikit Cup event to go on to win the Singapore Open in 2018. With the Olympics still some distance away, who knows Diksha could be notching another title at Tokyo in 2020?
#13 Amit Gulia
The young captain of the Under-23 Indian volleyball team, Amit Gulia steered his team to victory as the country for the first time reached the semi-final of the Asian Men’s Under-23 Championships on August 9 this year after defeating Australia 3-1 in the quarterfinals. The Indian team under Gulia pulled off a spectacular comeback after trailing 16-25 in the first set and went on to win three consecutive sets by 25-19, 25-21, 27-25. The Indian team topped its group which helped it secure a berth in the final eight of the tournament. The Indian side had also registered wins over China and New Zealand earlier.