Table Tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal and shuttler Lakshya Sen won the Sportsman of the Year (Racquet Sports) awards at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on Monday.
At 40, Sharath had one of the best years of his career in 2022. He swept aside all of his competitors during the Commonwealth Games 2022 on his way to four medals (three gold and one silver), winning a medal in every category he participated in.
“It is an honour to be in this room. Like Sania Mirza was saying, Sportstar used to come up every fortnight. The poster used to be in between. She was dreaming to be in the poster but for me, I was just awestruck looking at the champions. Leander with his fist-pump and his aggressive face. It is just a dream come true for me to share this space with all of you,” Sharath said.
He regained the men’s singles gold medal after 16 years, having won it in 2006 during his maiden Commonwealth Games appearance. Sharath beat home-favourite and higher-ranked Liam Pitchford to win his second singles gold. Along with Sreeja Akula, he gave India its first-ever Commonwealth Games mixed doubles gold medal. He led the Indian team, which won gold in the men’s team event, while he and Sathiyan fell short of gold in the men’s doubles, losing to Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall in the final.
Earlier in the year, Sharath won a record-improving 10th National singles title by dethroning G. Sathiyan, a worthy rival 10 years younger, in an enthralling title clash in Shillong. In 20 seasons, Sharath has figured in 15 finals, winning 10 of them.
Kamal also became the first Indian to get elected to the Athletes’ Commission of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). He was also named the vice-chairman of the Athletes’ Commission of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
Sharath was honoured with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, the country’s highest sports recognition.
For Lakshya Sen, the year started with a maiden BWF Super 500 title at India Open in January. He followed it with a runner-up finish at the All-England Open. It made him the first Indian male shuttler to play the Super Series Premier final since Pullela Gopichand won the title in 2001.
In the Thomas Cup final, playing the opening bout, Lakshya prevailed over higher-ranked Anthony Ginting and gave India a 1-0 lead. India rode on the momentum and won the prestigious team title 3-0.
Lakshya followed this with his maiden Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham. He defeated Malaysia’s Tze Young NG 19-21, 21-9, 21-16 to win the gold in men’s singles. With the win, he joined an elite list of Indian male Commonwealth Games gold medallists — a club that includes Prakash Padukone (1978), Syed Modi (1982) and Parupalli Kashyap (2014).
Former India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, former India hockey captain M. M. Somaya, chess great Viswanathan Anand, former India football skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and Olympians Anjali Bhagwat and Aparna Popat are the members of the Sportstar Aces 2023 jury.
The event is supported by IDFC First Bank, Indian Oil, India Cements, United India, Ramaiah University, Experimenta Science Center GD Naidu Charity, Finolex Pipes, LIC, BPCL, Samsonite, Big Basket, Nippon Paint, CRICHQ, Wordswork, NewsX and Casagrand.
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