The selection of nominations for the ESPN India Awards 2018, understandably, was a tougher proposition than the year before, with several individual performances at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games, including para-sport disciplines at both events, standing out for how good they were.
The following were some of the best nominations that almost made the final cut and could well have even won their respective categories in a leaner year.
Sunil Chhetri (Sportsperson of the year - Male)
Sunil Chhetri turned 34 in 2018, but you couldn't guess that from his performances for club and country. He took Bengaluru FC to the Indian Super League (ISL) final in their maiden season, with a hat-trick in their semi-final against FC Pune City, making him the first Indian with two hat-tricks in ISL history. Though Bengaluru lost a dramatic home final to Chennaiyin FC, Chhetri then led his club to the Super Cup title, a tournament featuring all 20 teams across both ISL and the I-League. Chhetri would finish as the top-scorer, two of his six goals coming in the 4-1 final triumph over East Bengal.
Chhetri also crossed 100 caps for the nation during the Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai. Later in the same tournament against Chinese Taipei, he became the first Indian to have struck three hat-tricks in international football.
Related: Sunil Chhetri - India's Mr Football
Hima Das (Sportsperson of the year - Female)
All of just 18 last year, Hima showed considerable improvement with each international outing on the track, beginning with a sixth place finish in the 400m final at the Commonwealth Games in April.
In July, she won the 400m final at the World U-20 Championships, making her the first Indian to have won a track gold at the tournament.
At the Asian Games later in the year, she reset the national record twice on her way to the 400m silver, and only a false start in the semifinal prevented her from competing for the 200m gold. She also featured in the women's 4x400m relay gold winning team, and also brought India silver in the first 4x400 mixed relay final.
Karman Kaur Thandi (Emerging sportsperson of the year)
Thandi became just the sixth Indian woman to have entered the top 200 of the tour singles rankings in August last year, featuring in three ITF finals during the year. She won the title in Hong Kong in June, beating Lu Jiajing of China in straight sets.
In November, she teamed up with compatriot Ankita Raina, at the Taipei Open, and the Indians recorded their first win on the WTA circuit when they emerged with the crown.
Varun Singh Bhati (Differently-abled athlete of the year)
India were the seventh-best team in the medals tally of the 2018 Asian Para Games, and nowhere was their domination more complete than in the men's high jump T42/63 category, where Sharad Kumar won gold. Bhati won silver, while Mariyappan Thangavelu won bronze, both of whom had also managed podium finishes at the Rio Paralympics in 2016. Bhati's jump of 1.82m may have been well behind Sharad's eventual winning figure of 1.90m, it was still close to his personal best of 1.86m, which had fetched him the bronze in Rio.
Women's 4x400m relay final at the Asian Games (Match of the year)
India had won the women's 4x400m relay at the Asian Games each year since a silver-medal finish in Bangkok in 1998. That record could have been under threat at the 2018 games in Jakarta, especially with Bahrain boasting of World Championships silver-medallist Salwa Eid Naser for their anchor leg. India tactically outfoxed favourites Bahrain by starting the race with their fastest runner Hima and the gap she was able to open up was maintained by MR Poovamma and Saritaben Gayakwad, before youngster Vismaya Koroth ran the race of her life to stave off Naser and maintain India's streak.