2021 was a unique year for sports, amid a time that was largely about constant updates on another pandemic-riddled year, Facebook’s Metaverse, the constantly shifting paradigms of the American Foreign Policy, and an atmosphere of tenseness in the Indian political system.
Anyone who says and believes that sport has the power to uplift and breathe hope amid despair is right on the money not only because sport offers a lot of money.
What it does, primarily, is offer the guiding light to express oneself to the best of one’s potential and some enormous events as noted below explain this rationale.
Events that made 2021 a year of global sports!
The year when Neeraj Chopra did India proud in a ‘golden’ fashion
What we see today are the famous commercials and the non-stop publishing of his good-looking face in print adverts. But underneath that wide popularity is a massive body of work that shone brightly at the mega Olympics of 2021 held in Japan.
Although, a junior commissioned officer in the Indian Army, Neeraj Chopra, a soft-talking, zero bullshit, mild-mannered athlete excelling in Javelin throw, gathered a mega gold medal in the sporting extravaganza. And in so doing, became the first track and field athlete to win a gold medal at the Olympics for India.
In a country where the mere sight of a football or cricket bat would spread massive smiles, now the sight of a javelin reminds us of the prowess there exists in a nation filled with infinite potential. The Khandra-born athlete, all of 23, is the face of Indian sports and rightly so, for 2021
Djokovic wins the French Open 2021
The second grand slam event of the year was a widely followed event perhaps also since the French Open in 2021 was the 125th edition of the famous Tennis competition.
Taking his nineteenth Grand Slam title in what has been a glorious career, Novak Djokovic took the 2021 French Open and in so doing, overcame the challenge imposed by Stefano Tsitsipas. The man famously proclaimed as the “Djoker” for his funny antics on the court also improved over his performance in the 2020 edition, where he was beaten by the very dominant Rafael Nadal.
The 2021 Golf Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup Team from the United States proved its authority over one of Golf’s most admired and widely followed tournaments. What was emphatic about the
Whistling Straits-bound event was that the winners, USA, had fielded the youngest team in its history and yet, succeeded in recording a 19-9 victory, which was also the largest margin of win in the tournament since 1967. In so doing, Europe sustained a massive defeat to the victorious USA.
The World Darts Championship Final
If precision is the buzzword then a darts championship is the field of play. If imperturbable focus is the need of the hour, then the canvass of its expression in the world darts championship and in 2021, one saw a massively successful event, even as the prestigious event split from the renowned British Darts organization.
The London-bound Alexandra Palace had seen from the onset of 15 December 2020 until 3 January 2021 the successful completion of a world-famous darts competition.
Eventually won by Gerwyn Price, a 36-year-old from Wales, the World Darts Championship Final saw the ever-popular Gary Anderson (50-year-old from Scotland) lose 7-3 in a high-octane final.
Interestingly, Price, nicknamed ‘The Iceman’ much like F1’s Kimi Raikkonen happens to be a former professional rugby player.
The Dubai World Cup 2021 Horse Race
It was about time that the sport became more popular and was considered in the mainstream as other global sporting events!
The one-of-a-kind and widely followed horse racing event held at Dubai’s famous Meydan Racecourse on March 27, 2021, saw agility and precision in its full aplomb as the race was won by Mystic Guide, the winning horse.
Trained in the US by Michael Stidham and ridden by Luis Saez, the horse set a sensational winning time of 2:01. 61. The winner-takes-it-all homed in on a massive cash prize of $7,200,000 and thus, made the victory on a fast surface on a dirt surface a big triumph.
Cristiano Ronaldo moves Coca-Cola aside!
A sporting moment that didn’t take place on the sporting turf or any field for that matter, one of the moments that truly made 2021 a year of sports was the not-so-loving interaction Cristiano Ronaldo, who needs no introduction, had with Coca Cola, a drink that respectfully speaking, has calories all over in its introduction during a media presser.
In an important Pre-match press conference in one of 2021’s most widely followed events, the European Championship, Ronaldo saw bottles of Coca Cola on the desk from which he was about to address the media.
In wasting no time whatsoever in moving them aside, what was actually a harmless action, perceptibly executed in the wake of removing a sugary and needlessly fatty beverage from his path, Ronaldo being an ultra-fit athlete, did something just albeit one that few saw coming.
In hindsight, why would any grand athlete, a legend of the sport, want to have a carbonated, calorie-filled beverage, with all due respect?
Resultantly, the event garnered massive media response and reportedly, the next day, the stocks of Coca-cola came down crashing.
RIP Demaryius Thomas, former NFL star, Superbowl champion
In America, as also in the wider world, NFL is a cult, rather a religion and an event widely followed. Quite akin to cricket being a religion in India. So when you lose a figure of inspiration, such as the widely known Demaryius Thomas of the NFL, you don’t lose a mere mortal; you are separated from a hero of the sport.
One of the more sombre pieces of sporting news in 2021 arrived at the fag end of the year when none expected it. With the passing of an established star of American Football, the sporting world lost a great athlete, one who authored a standout career after being a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2010. While the police ruled out any foul play, that the demise is of talent no older than 33 was painful and quite unimaginable.
He was an experienced campaigner, someone who played in the National Football League for 10 seasons.
The year of Andrey Rublev
One of Moscow’s finest exports to the world of Tennis, Andrey Rublev, all of 24, emerged as one of the famous figures in the sport. He did that against a massive count of participating in no fewer than 53 Tennis matches this year. One of the stand out moments of his career was being part of the cauldron that won the ATP Cup. During this series, the Russian actually remained undefeated. At the end of the season, he also helped his fellow team members to lift the David Cup trophy. Surely, one of the glowing names in the sport to watch!
The lukewarm response to the Arab Cup 2021
While a sport like Formula 1 reached destinations like Saudi Arabia, where it had never previously set foot, one wondered as to why Football, usually popular in the Arab world didn’t quite boomerang in popularity. Sport isn’t only about the thumping successes or mega thrills, but also about taking into cognizance the challenging moments, as also the sombre events that surprise us all.
Therefore, the ongoing Arab Cup of 2021, a precursor to the 2022-bound world cup, to be held in Qatar, left open a can of concerns that must be addressed. First and foremost, why is it that the sporting tournament, currently in its eleventh edition, finds a lukewarm response?
It is, after all, the entirety of the Arab world’s national football tournament? Are the streets of Qatar not buzzing with excitement?
This was, and still is, the first major footballing event being held in the region under FIFA’s jurisdiction and features teams from not less than twenty countries in the Arab world, to say the least.
Armaan Ebrahim got hitched
Fast on the track, a cool dude off it! Armaan Ebrahim’s world is enigmatic and always bright.
Where it comes to Formula 1 and India’s participation, you are told about- and instantly think - of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok. But when it concerns motorsports and other globally renowned competitive forms of single-seater racing, you think of- and applaud - the likes of Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim, two of India’s widely successful racers, talents at the behest of whom India got the X1 Racing league, circa 2019.
Armaan, a popular name in the FIA Formula Two Championship, Formula BMW Asia and above that, one of the most familiar faces in the racing scene in India, got married to Anushpala Kamineni, who happens to be the vice-president of Apollo Group.
At 32, Armaan is buzzing with massive talent and a host of new racing opportunities he’s helping create with good friend Aditya Patel in the country of his birth, the land where one can find enormous racing talent.
2021 Karate Championships, Dubai
The famous sporting event that places a high level of fitness and agility on a different ground altogether unfurled some exciting new names at Dubai’s Hamdan Sports Complex.
Among those that stood out exhibiting enormous skill in fighting, self-defense capacity were Japan’s Ryo Kiyuna, a gold medalist at Men’s Kata event in Summer
Olympics, 2020 at Tokyo, Spain’s silver medalist Damian Quintero, Italian Bronze medalist Matia Basuto, a four-time bronze winner at the world karate championships, and Japanese silver medalist (women) Hikaru Uno and Spain’s gold medalist (women) Sandra Sanchez.
The 6-day event saw Japan, Italy, and Egypt taking the most medals and dominating the charts in Karate’s massively challenging sphere.
The year where Jamaica excelled on the track and ever so determinedly
At the world-famous Tokyo Olympics of 2020, an event held amid ceaseless concerns of the pandemic that was still spreading all over, it was a heartening sight to see athletes from tiny nations earning wider plaudits and worldwide recognition.
Ask anyone who Jamaica’s famous sporting names are and perhaps, 8 in 10 would say Usain Bolt and Chris Gayle. But if there was something 2021 did, and rightly so, then it broadened the discussion on the same by placing among these mega names a certain Bronze medalist Megan Tapper of Jamaica.
Today, the first Jamaican athlete to win an Olympic medal is just as precious as her compatriots. Her exploits at the 100m hurdle at Tokyo prove the prowess women as athletes possess in a sporting world that’s often leaning toward men.
The GOAT found his way to another mega accolade
Lionel Messi is a name that many take with much fondness and reverence. Others, simply bow down to a man who’s but the GOAT of football, as they say.
Regardless of who you are and what your favourite sport is, Messi has done to Football what Schumacher did to F1 and Ali did to Boxing. He’s in a league of his own, and in recognizing the sheer greatness of the lad from Argentina, the sporting world bestowed another honour upon the man responsible for scoring most goals for La Liga, most hat-tricks in La Liga, and no fewer than 80 goals as of November 16, 2021.
In what became one of the sporting world’s true all-encompassing moments, Messi was honoured with a seventh Ballon d'Or award.
An honour that the man who’s now with Paris Saint-Germain truly deserved.
Thailand women’s cricket team’s heartbreak
For a team that had all its players put as wallpapers, the 2022 women’s world cup trophy, Thailand suffered a heartbreak and a massive one of sorts with the ICC suddenly cancelling the closely-followed event at the back of rising COVID cases.
But before the untimely cancellation of the event that crushed their hopes to qualify for the prestigious cricketing event, Thailand women had trounced Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and USA and were only beaten by Pakistan women’s side.
A closely-knit unit where nearly all can both bat and ball and where the crux of the sport revolves around the top six in a line-up, Thailand have dared to stun the formidable forces and epitomized what it means to be a true underdog.
In the T20 world cup of 2020, they nearly stunned the Windies and became a parable of bowling economical spells, also collecting big applauses for their agility on the field. The Chaiwai-led team had some of the finest and rising all-rounders such as Chanida Sutthiruang, who could well be another Ellyse Perry but of the game in Thailand.
The year of Hamilton versus Verstappen battle
With the final F1 race, i.e., the season finale just hours away from getting underway, thoughts go out to the two drivers who enter the curtain ender on equal points: 369.5 points.
Theirs has been a rivalry that has truly defined the new era of F1 in this turbo-hybrid age. Nearly on par with race wins, both Hamilton, with 8 victories and Verstappen, with 9 wins against his name (2021) will keenly contest on one more occasion to truly produce a great result the likelihood of which could see a world title sit on either’s side.
Whether it was the tensely contested race at Imola, or the jarring result at Silverstone, bringing glory to one and misery to the other or the massive nail biters at Brazil or Saudi Arabia, Hamilton and Verstappen have done more than winning and forging a massive rivalry.
They’ve decorated an often-hyped surface of Formula 1 with their explosive, often unforgiving talent.
Virat Kohli stands tall despite a fall
He may not have hit a century in the last two years of playing international cricket, but Kohli, no longer the ODI or T20I captain, produced massive runs in the game’s briefest format.
Striking 300 of his 3,200 plus career runs in T20Is of 2021, Kohli whipped those at an average of 74.7, hitting 4 fifties in 8 innings, in half of which he emerged unbeaten at the crease.
In a year where it seemed nothing went right for the former captain of Indian white-ball cricket, Kohli the batsman reappeared to tense aching nerves with familiar colours of vibrancy and that quintessential skill with the bat.
Now that a sizeable chunk of captaincy- a responsibility to him, but a burden to most others- is off his shoulders, can the right-hander hammer bowlers in 2022 and perhaps avenge in the forthcoming T20 world cup, the crushing loss suffered this year?
It’s all to play for.
Au Revoir, Iceman!
Once a wise man saying ‘nothing,’ as they say. But honestly, there’s not much to say about a true Formula 1 great who has against his name 21 race wins, 46 fastest laps, 103 podiums and a world title, that too with Ferrari, the sport’s most iconic outfit.
The records say it all.
Then, all you can do is to stare at these enigmatic numbers whilst mumbling to yourself what Kimi Raikkonen usually did when asked anything in general, “Bwoah!”
For a man who’s famously said that F1 is not my life, the fact that he was, from the onset of 2001 until 2009 and then from 2012 until 2021-end, one of the drivers who infused life into a mechanical sport, Kimi spoke through pure speed, ever his essence and raced hard but fare for nearly two decades.
In giving a darn about anything else other than pure racing, the Iceman was, is and shall be remembered as one of the fastest and most naturally gifted F1 drivers of any generation. Someone in whose reference the great Sir Stirling Moss said, “Quite frankly, Kimi Raikkonen is the fastest driver of his generation,” it makes little sense to undermine a career that stood for blazing speed and absolute normality in a world where there exist unique, loud and often unbearably unreal characters.
Go well, Kimi. We don’t want to but can’t help it- so we will now leave you alone, for you know where you’re going!