Just when the impact of the global pandemic of coronavirus appeared to be subsiding, the second wave created havoc. But amid all the gloom, sports provided a much-needed respite and lifted the spirits of the entire nation. After a demoralising 2020 for sports, when most live events were cancelled, 2021 came as a ray of hope. From conquering the Gabba to attaining India’s best-ever medal tally at the Olympics, our athletes achieved major highs. The Paralympians made us super proud too, securing 19 medals, including 5 golds.

This was also a super year for our Northeastern athletes. The nation took notice of the special performances by our sporting superstars. Today, it won’t be an exaggeration if we say that the region has shown immense promise and is slowly but steadily building itself as the sporting powerhouse of the nation.

Let us look back at some of these special performances by our superheroes who made us immensely proud this year.

  1. Mirabai Chanu, Lovlina Bogohain and Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma – The Super Olympians

The North Eastern athletes had a key part to play as India returned with a haul of 7 Olympic medals this year – their best. Manipur’s Saikhom Mirabai Chanu got home the first medal as she clinched a silver in women’s weightlifting (49 kg). This was also India’s first-ever silver in weightlifting at the Olympics.

Indian hockey player Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma

Another Manipuri got his name listed in the medals list as Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma, as a member of the Indian men’s hockey team got the bronze medal, after defeating Germany 5-4 in the bronze medal match. Assam boxer Lovlina Borgohain (Women’s 69kg) won a bronze medal too, after losing her semi-final bout 0-5 against Busenaz Surmeneli. It was India’s first Olympic medal in boxing in nine years.

  • Manipur – Winners of the Women’s National Football Championship

The Manipur Women’s Football team continued their dominant run in the tournament as they claimed their 21st title of the Senior Women’s National Football Championship. They defended their title by defeating Railways 2-1 in a penalty shootout. The game had ended on 0-0 after extra time. What makes the win more special and proves their dominance is the fact that Manipur has won the tournament 21 times out of the 26 editions held. The tournament is organised by the All India Football Federation.

  • Bishal Changmai –Gold medal winning archer in the Youth World Championships

Teen sensation Bishal Changmai, as a part of the Indian archery team, won 3 medals, including two golds, in the Youth World Championships in Wroclaw, Poland. The teenage recurve archer won three U18 medals; two gold medals came in the men’s team and mixed team event and he also earned an individual bronze medal. Bishal hails from Bokakhat, Assam and interestingly, archery was not the first sport that he fell in love with. Growing up, his favourite sport was swimming but a visit to an archery camp in his native place got him attracted to archery. Soon, he was selected for SAI, Guwahati and later joined the Pune Army Sports Institute. His immediate focus is to perform well in the senior category as well.

  • Soman Rana – Paralympian and Gold medallist in the Tunis World Para Athletics Grand Prix and at National Athletics Para Championships

Meghalaya’s Soman Rana has been the epitome of grit and perseverance. Soman, who had lost his right leg in a mine blast injury, qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics, earlier this year. Though he missed a medal and came fourth in the F57 shot put with a throw of 13.81m, however, his story has inspired millions in the region. Apart from his Paralympics heroics, he has also won gold medals in the Tunis World Para Athletics Grand Prix and at National Athletics Para Championships. Soman was admitted to the Army Paralympic Node in 2017.

  • Jeremy Lalrinnunga’s Gold at Commonwealth Championships

Jeremy Lalrinnunga is undoubtedly one of the brightest prospects from this part of the world. He brought glory to the nation when in 2021, he won gold in the 67 kg category at the Commonwealth Championships. Jeremy had lifted 305kg (141 kg+164 kg) in the men’s 67kg event. The Mizoram weightlifter first created headlines when he became the first Indian to win a gold medal at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires in 2018. Hailing from a family of sports lovers, he started his journey as a boxer and later switched to weightlifting. Son of a Junior National champion boxer, Jeremy started training in the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in Pune when he was just 10 years old. He has already displayed a lot of promise and all eyes will be on Jeremy when he represents the nation in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

  • Phoebe Dale Nongrum – Podium Finish at 23rd JK Tyre FMSCI National Racing Championship

Meghalaya’s Phoebe Dale Nongrum is Northeast India’s first female Formula 4 driver. Earlier this year, she created history when she achieved a podium finish at the 23rd JK Tyre FMSCI National Racing Championship held in Coimbatore. A passionate racer, Phoebe has been driving since the age of 12.

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