2017: What's in store?

Though there are no multi-sport extravaganzas or mega events scheduled for 2017, fans can look forward to some significant sporting action in the new year. Sportstar lists out the principal events to look forward to and the sportspersons to watch out for this year.

Usain Bolt, the most decorated sprinter of all time, has announced that he intends to retire immediately after the 2017 World Championships in London.   -  Getty Images

LeBron James (23) led Cleveland to the 2016 NBA title — the first trophy triumph for the team since 1964. Fans now want more laurels, and it is up to their saviour to deliver.   -  Getty Images

P. V. Sindhu, the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medallist, is only 21 and has plenty to offer. If the World No. 10 remains injury-free in 2017, she could make her way to the very top of women's badminton.   -  REUTERS

The year 2017 does not have any mega event on its calendar. There are no multi-sport extravaganzas (Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games) or World Cup events (FIFA World Cup, ICC Twenty20, hockey World Cup etc.). However, there are other major events to look forward to in the new year.

The year 2016 witnessed the emergence of several new heroes, while many proven athletes touched new heights. Will the stars fade out, or continue to burn bright in the new year?

Here are some of the events to look forward to, and the sportspersons to watch out for this year.

EVENTS — ATHLETICS

IAAF World Championships (London, August 5-13)

The buzz around this event will be unprecedented, as the meet will bring the curtain down on Usain Bolt’s chequered career. The distance runner from Britain, Mo Farah, has also hinted that he will call it quits at the championship in London, and will look to end his career on a winning note by registering a 5,000m-10,000m double in front of his adoring home fans. Compatriot Ashton Eaton, the World record holder in decathlon and gold medal winner at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will also look to charm his home fans.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, arguably the greatest female sprinter in history, will be eager to make amends for the injury-affected bronze medal finish at the Rio Olympics.

CRICKET

ICC Champions Trophy (England and Wales, June 1-18)

A limited field at the ICC Champions Trophy leaves little room for one-sided affairs. Only the top-eight nations in the ICC ODI Championship rankings (as on September 30, 2015) have qualified for the elite 50-over tournament.

The eighth edition of the tournament sees the inclusion of Bangladesh for the first time since 2006, while West Indies misses the cut. Defending champion India needs to be at its very best to ward off the likes of World Cup finalist New Zealand, World Cup winner Australia, South Africa and Pakistan.

FOOTBALL

FIFA Under-17 World Cup (India, October 6-28)

As the hoopla over the selection of individual city venues dies down, it is time to view the bigger picture. The FIFA Under-17 World Cup carries real weight, which gives India the chance to place itself on the world football map. The marquee junior international event has seen players such as Neymar, Mario Gotze, James Rodriguez and Memphis Depay in action in the previous editions, and Indian football fans can be sure that a thrilling fare is on the cards.

 

SPORTSPERSONS/TEAM

Usain Bolt (athletics)

The most decorated sprinter of all time has announced that he intends to retire immediately after the 2017 World Championships in London. Bolt — he almost single-handedly generated a new wave of interest in track and field in recent years — is a once-in-a-generation superstar. He will be just a few days shy of his 31st birthday when the World Championships commence, and this leaves little possibility of the Jamaican setting another record at the event. An emotional farewell, at the very least, is guaranteed.

Conor McGregor (Mixed Martial Arts)

The Irish superstar scaled a new peak recently when he became the first fighter in UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) history to hold titles in two divisions (lightweight and featherweight) simultaneously. McGregor is the poster boy of mixed martial arts. He has attracted a massive following to this rapidly expanding sport.

The hype behind the brash fighter has now gone into overdrive, as McGregor has publicly declared that he wants to step into the boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather. He has even gained a boxing licence. It remains to be seen if Mayweather — he holds an astounding 49-0 record as a professional — takes the bait and accepts the fight.

LeBron James (basketball)

When James returned to Cleveland Cavaliers at the start of the 2014-15 NBA season, the occasion sparked media frenzy in the city he once called home. He had, after all, begun his career at Cleveland before his highly publicised departure to Miami in 2010. All was forgiven when James led Cleveland to the 2016 NBA title — the first trophy triumph for the team since 1964. Fans now want more laurels, and it is up to their saviour to deliver.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (cricket)

Even as India’s ODI captain enters another year of international cricket, calls for his retirement refuse to die. They have, in fact, only gotten louder in the last few months. Dhoni, however, has found support in Sachin Tendulkar, who recently stated that his former team-mate has all the qualities needed to carry on. Will 2017 see Dhoni’s swansong?

Bengaluru FC (football)

Bengaluru FC (BFC) broke new ground in 2016, when it became the first Indian club to reach the final of the AFC Cup. This run has given the Bengaluru team a spot in the second round of the AFC Champions League preliminary stage — the continent’s elite club competition. Albert Roca’s men, the defending I-League champions, will look to conquer all on the domestic front in 2017.

Aditi Ashok (golf)

In November, Aditi Ashok became the first Indian to win a Ladies European Tour title, when she came out on top in the Hero Indian Open in Gurugram. A couple of weeks later, Aditi won another title, this time at the Qatar Ladies Open. She then ended a fantastic season by taking the ‘Rookie of the Year’ honours. The Bengaluru teenage sensation is poised for another spectacular year, having gained a 2017 LPGA Tour card.

P. V. Sindhu (badminton)

Sindhu came out of Saina Nehwal’s shadow when she claimed the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She followed this up by winning the China Open in November — her maiden Super Series title. The World No. 10, who is only 21, has plenty to offer. If she remains injury-free in 2017, she could make her way to the very top of women’s badminton.