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Indian sports stars who made a big “leap” from last leap year

Indian sports stars who made a big “leap” from last leap year

Four years is a long time in the sporting world. Legends can fall from grace in this period but they can also write their success stories too. Make and break records, stage comeback and enthrall sports fanatics with their bravado, there is a lot an athelete can do in a four-year cycle.  While a number of unknown stars can make their place in the rich sporting culture of the nation. From the last leap year on February 29, 2016, to the one in 2020, we have seen many Indian sporting stars rise after fighting the odds.

Here we look at five stars who made a big “leap” in the last four years, and the players on whom the Tokyo Olympic dreams will hinge on.

Bajrang Punia

Bajrang Punia (Image: Facebook)

Bajran Punia competes in the 65 kg weight division has won three World Wrestling Championship titles, two of which came in the last two years. The grappler has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics courtesy his bronze medal finish at the 2019 World Championships and will be eager to carry his form that he has got going in the last few years into the Summer Games.

From 2016, Punia has won a silver at the 2018 Budapest World Championships besides a bronze last year in Nur Sultan, along with bagging two golds each at the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games. He has two gold medals and two bronze at the Asian Championships in the said interim as well. A silver medal winner at the World Under-23 Championships, Punia was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award last year by the Indian government for his stellar run.

Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat (Image: United World Wrestling)

Another wrestler who has made waves since 2016. Vinesh Phogat had a heartbreaking Rio 2016 Olympic games when she had to be stretchered out of the ring due to an injury. However, she staged a fine comeback and has emerged as a bright prospect for a medal at the 2020 Olympics.

Aged 25, the Haryana grapple’s biggest achievement was a bronze medal that she won at the World Championships last year. It followed up her gold medals that she bagged at the CWG and the Asian Games in 2018. She has also returned with medals in the last four Asian Championships – winning silver in 2017 and 2018, and a bronze the last two years. The last 12 months, in particular, have been spectacular for Phogat. She first won gold at the Yasar Dogu International, and bagged her third successive gold in the women’s 53 kg weight division after winning the Poland Open in 2019. She won the gold in this year’s prestigious Rome Ranking Series as well.

Read: India bag 20 medals, their highest ever at Asian Wrestling Championships

Apurvi Chandela

Apurvi Chandela (Image: ISSF)

Though Apurvi Chandela qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, she dished out a disappointing performance at Rio, finishing 34th in the qualification round in the women’s 10 metres air rifle event. However, the shooter has regrouped since then and bagged her place in the Tokyo 2020 Games after a stellar last few seasons on the circuit.

After bagging a bronze at the Asian Games and the CWG in 2018, Chandela was unstoppable in 2019, a year where she won three World Cup golds. She bagged top honours at the World Cups in Munich, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro besides winning silver at the Munich World Cup. In the World Cup Final, Chandela returned with a silver in the Mixed Team 10 metre Air Rifle Event and will spearhead India’s challenge at the Olympics later this year.

Read: How Indian shooting has been revamped after Rio Olympics debacle

Mirabai Chanu

Though Mirabai Chanu has been a regular in weightlifting since 2014, it was her gold medal-winning efforts at the World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, the United States three years ago that propelled her to great heights. The following year, Chanu broke three Commonwealth Games records in just six minutes en route to the gold medal, lifting a total of 196 kg. She won a bronze in Clean and Jerk on the 49 kg weight category at the 2019 Asian Weightlifting Championships with her best-ever effort lift of 199 kg. She has been bettering her own efforts in the last few months.

Chanu lifted her best of 201 kg at the 2019 Weighlifting Championships to finish fourth. She broke her record again four months later when she lifted 203 kg to win the National Weightlifting Championships last year. The weightlifter also clinched gold at the Qatar International Cup in December 2019.

Read: India bag 20 medals, their highest ever at Asian Wrestling Championships

Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra has many first to his name. He is India’s first-ever gold medallist in Javelin throw at the Commonwelath Games (CWG) and the Asian Games. Both medals came in 2018. Chopra’s career has been on a rise in the last couple of years. With a throw of 86.47 metres in his debut CWG in 2018, Chopra joined the elite list of players to win a gold in their CWG debuts. A world junior player in 2016, Chopra took to the senior circuit with ease, winning the Asian Athletic Championships in 2017 before his feats the following year. He bettered his own throw in the Asian Games in 2018, managing 88.06 metres, which was his last international meet in over a year as an elbow injury ruled him out.

He returned to action at the Athletics Central North East meeting in South Africa this year, and seaed his spot for Tokyo 2020, with a throw of 87.86 metres.

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