World Athletics Day: Norman Pritchard to Neeraj Chopra – Indian Athletes Who Defied the Odds And Took Over the Stage at the Olympics


World Athletics Day is marked annually on May 7 to promote sports participation around the globe. We celebrate the day The fundamental goal of this day is to instill athleticism in young people. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) founded World Athletics Day as a social responsibility project called ‘Athletics for a Better World’.

This day is extremely important as it encourages fitness and good health. Many schools and universities commemorate World Athletics Day by holding sports tournaments. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) organizes many big national and international sporting events, as well as promotes sports throughout the country.

Here are some Indian Athletes who made it big on the grand stage.

India’s 1st Athlete in the Olympics: Norman Pritchard

Norman Gilbert Pritchard, is widely considered India’s 1st Olympian. He was an Anglo-Indian athlete who became the first Asian-born athlete to win an Olympic medal.

And won India’s first medal at the Olympics in the 200 metres and the 200 metres hurdles. He won two silver medals in athletics at the 1900 Paris Olympics representing India.

Golden Boy: Neeraj Chopra

The reigning Olympic champion and World champion in Men’s javelin throw. He is the first Asian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in javelin and the first Asian to win gold in his event at the World Championship. He is also the first track and field athlete from India to win at the World Under-20 Championships, where in 2016 he achieved a world U20 record throw of 86.48 m, becoming the first Indian athlete to set a world record. Chopra participated in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games, serving as the flag-bearer in the latter and winning gold medals in both.

The Flying Sikh: Milkha Singh

Known as the “Flying Sikh”, Milkha Singh represented India in the 400m event at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He was leading the race until the last 100m when he looked back and lost his momentum. He finished fourth in a close finish, missing the bronze medal by a fraction of a second. His time of 45.73 seconds set a national record that stood for 40 years.

From the track to IOC Boss: PT Usha

Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, popularly known as PT Usha, represented India in the 400m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She clocked 55.42 seconds in the final, missing out on the bronze medal by just one-hundredth of a second. This performance is often considered the coronation of India’s ‘queen of the track and field’. After her tenure as a sucessful athlete, she’s now the head of India’s Olympics Association.

Anju Bobby George

Anju Bobby George made history as the first Indian athlete ever to win a medal in a World Championships in Athletics jumping 6.70 metres. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, she made the finals and broke the national long jump record with 6.83m, which still stands. She finished fifth in the long jump event.

Deepa Malik: Paralympics Champion

Deepa Malik is the first Indian woman to win a medal in Paralympic Games. She won a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in the shot put with her lifetime personal best performance of 4.61 meters. Her achievement is even more remarkable considering she did it all with a single kidney.

A true polymath, she has represented the country in multiple events like rally racing, mountaineering etc.

Devendra Jhajharia: From track to politics

Jhajharia is the first Indian Paralympian to win two gold medals at the Paralympics. Now, he can be seen in the political world representing the BJP.

Devendra Jhajharia

He won his first gold in the javelin throw at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and his second gold at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, where he bettered his previous record. He also won a silver medal at the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.

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