The Sportstar Aces Awards seek to honour incredible performances by Indians across sporting disciplines.
Among the six Popular Choice honours open to public voting in the fifth chapter is the coveted National Team of the Year Award.
Indian sports teams have enjoyed tremendous success in 2022. Of the lot, the six nominated teams are - India’s Thomas Cup-winning badminton team, the women’s hockey team, the women’s fours lawn bowls team, the contingent at the Chess Olympiad and the men’s table tennis team.
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Here’s what the nominees did in 2022:
India’s Thomas Cup-winning badminton team: The Thomas Cup title evaded India for over 70 years but the Indian contingent ended that drought in 2022. India beat 14-time champion Indonesia 3-0 to become the sixth different nation to win the coveted tournament. World Championships bronze medallist Lakshya Sen defeated Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting 8-21, 21-17, 21-16 in the first men’s singles to give India a 1-0 lead. In the first doubles game, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty saved four match points before beating Mohammad Ahsan and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo 18-21, 23-21, 21-19 to extend India’s lead to 2-0. World Championships silver medallist Kidambi Srikanth edged Jonatan Christie 21-15, 23-21 in straight games in the second men’s singles match to seal India’s historic victory. India had previously reached the semifinals of the Thomas Cup in 1952, 1955, and 1979. En route to its maiden title, India also beat Malaysia and Denmark.
Women’s Hockey Team: Coming back from a fourth place finish at the Tokyo Olympics, the Indian women’s hockey team had a lot to prove in 2022. The Savita Punia-led Indian women’s team produced wins over Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Argentina in its debut FIH Hockey Pro League season and finished third, while also placing third at the 2022 Women’s Hockey Asia Cup. While India’s performance at the World Cup was unsatisfactory, tied ninth, the Dutch manager redeemed herself when she coached the team to a Commonwealth Games bronze. The cherry on top was India’s win against host Spain in the FIH Women’s Nations Cup final and its promotion to the FIH Pro League 2023-24.
Women’s Fours Lawn Bowls Team: India won its first-ever gold medal in Lawn Bowls as it beat South Africa 17-10 in the final of the Women’s Fours event in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. The Indian quartet of Lovely Choubey (lead), Pinki (second), Nayanmoni Saikia (third) and Rupa Rani Tirkey (skip) made history after a thrilling battle against their opponents. What made the win even more special was that the lawn bowls team didn’t have training access at the rinks in Victoria Park, Leamington Spa, when it touched down in the United Kingdom. Not having a coach for a while didn’t help either. India will get a shot at further glory at the World Championships in Gold Coast next year. Medal wins at the Championship will help complement the Birmingham high.
Indian contingent at Chess Olympiad: The strength and depth of Indian chess was in full show at the Chess Olympiad in Chennai. India fielded three teams each in the open and women’s sections and walked away with medals galore. Out of the 36 medals at stake, India cinched nine. Besides ‘India-2’ and ‘India-1’ winning bronze medals in the open and women’s sections, there were some sparkling performances on the individual boards. D. Gukesh and Nihal Sarin won gold, with Gukesh catching the eye by winning all his first eight games on the top board in the open section. The team they were part of - ‘India-2’ - deservedly won a lot of praise.
Men’s Table Tennis Team: India had never before successfully defended a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games. Therefore, despite entering the 2022 Games as rank favourites, the Indian men’s contingent had the burden of making history in the pet event. A. Sharath Kamal, G. Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty, however, lived up to their reputation and brought home the men’s team gold for the second successive occasion. While Sharath and Sathiyan were in their element, Harmeet played a vital role in the knockouts.