From the likes of Anish Bhanwala, Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker announcing themselves as shooting talents to watch out for to Siddharth Desai's impressive debut season in the Pro Kabaddi League, 2018 was memorable for several emerging Indian athletes. Here are the nominees for the best Emerging Sportsperson of the Year award.
A winner of three golds, one silver and one bronze at Junior World Cups in 2018, pistol shooter Anish took the step up dramatically at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, with a Games-record performance to win the 25m rapid fire gold, becoming India's youngest gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games at just 15.
A nominee in this category in 2017 as well, Lakshya defeated reigning world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidasrn of Thailand in straight games to win the men's singles title at the Asia Junior Championships in Jakarta in May. He became the first Indian man in 53 years to have held this continental title, adding his name to such illustrious ones as Lin Dan, Taufik Hidayat, Chen Long and Kento Momota. Lakshya then made the final of the World Junior Championships in November, losing this time to Vitidasrn, but exacted his revenge by beating his Thai opponent in the final of the Tata Open India International Challenge in December.
Just 18 years of age, striker Lalremsiami was a regular feature of the Indian women's hockey team, which had some encouraging results right through 2018. In her maiden World Cup outing, she scored as India beat Italy in the cross-overs to make the quarterfinals, where they lost to eventual runners-up Ireland after a shootout. Siami, as Lalremsiami is fondly called by teammates, also helped India win silver at the Asian Champions Trophy, as well as at the Asian Games, where India were beaten in a thrilling final by Japan. Siami scored a hat-trick in the pool match against Kazakhstan, that India won 21-0. Later in the year, she scored nine goals as India won silver in the hockey 5s at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
Manu became the youngest Indian to win a gold at the Shooting World Cup with gold in the 10m air pistol event at the Guadalajara World Cup in March 2018, and then set a new Games record on her way to winning the Commonwealth Games gold in the same event, ahead of her more experienced compatriot Heena Sidhu. At the Asian Games, she set a new qualification record in the 10m air pistol event in making the final, but failed to secure a podium finish there. She then capped off her year with a Youth Olympic Games gold in Buenos Aires.
In a year in which he turned just 16, Saurabh announced himself as one to watch in the future for pistol shooting for India. He began with golds in the individual and mixed team events of the 10m air pistol event at the Junior World Cup in Suhl, before picking up the 10m air pistol gold in his first outing at the Asian Games. He also won two golds, in the individual and mixed team 10m air pistol events, at the Asian Championships, the junior 10m air pistol gold at the World Championships, and also the 10m air pistol gold at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
His team U Mumba may have only finished second in their zone, and then got eliminated in their first match of the playoffs, but Siddharth Desai was the outstanding individual performer in his debut season -- he became the fastest to 50 raid points in a season, getting there in just his fourth game. His 218 raid points (and 221 points overall) were only bettered by Pardeep Narwal and Pawan Kumar Sehrawat) while his 10 Super Raids made him the only raider other than Sehrawat to cross that mark for the season. Narwal and Sehrawat were also the only raiders to have had more Super 10s in the season than Desai, who managed 12 such outings in 21 matches played. Desai's performance won him the best debutant award for Season 6.