Eighteen-year-old Aditi Ashok’s sparkling season on the golf course, Pankaj Advani’s yet another world billiards title on the green baize, Karun Nair and KL Rahul’s seasoned performances in cricket with Anil Kumble making the national team’s head coach too, people sitting up and taking note of the Bengaluru Football Club (BFC) and Karnataka forming its first under-18 girls and boys rugby teams... we asked some of the stars who made headlines in 2016, how they hope their 2017 will be.
For youngsters creating waves in cricket, it was a year of great learning. “The year 2016 was a year of experiences — I’ve become a better player and a stronger person because of that. I hope I get to play in all three formats in 2017,” says 25-year-old Karun Nair whose triple ton saw the Chepauk Stadium go silent — a feat only Virender Sehwag had achieved before him.
For his fellow city cricketer KL Rahul too, it was a year of great performances and injuries. “I was tested every day mentally, emotionally and physically... a lot of things tried to push me down and I always came back stronger. So 2016 was memorable,” he smiles. And what about 2017? “I don’t plan for the future. I’ll take it as it comes,” he says, with a quiet confidence.
In what’s a stark contrast to when on the field with your mind in the game, not planning ahead ironically, seems to be a trend with sportspersons. “I’ve never set personal goals or milestones to achieve, so, on that front, my 2017 slate is rather blank. But broadly, I’d love to go out there and retain the League title and then go a step ahead in the AFC competition,” says Sunil Chhetri. For the freewheeling, poster boy of Indian football, 2016’s best moment is a no-brainer, “Bengaluru FC shook the country’s imagination by becoming the first Indian club to make the final of a continental competition and to lead the team out that night in Qatar will forever be special. But 2016 had already become special in April when we won the I-League in front of our home crowd. We just went and made it unforgettable in November.” Football aside, Sunil, who recently announced his engagement too, hopes to travel and explore places a lot more, maybe learn an instrument and read more.
Some other young achievers can’t wait for the year to start. All of 17 and picking up four gold medals in a single meet at the South Asian Games in Guwahati, Bengaluru lass Damini Gowda is definitely someone to watch out for this year. “I do have to study well and get a good percentage in my board exams,” she tells us of her upcoming 12th grade examinations. This year will be all about training well and qualifying for the Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2018, starting with a great performance at the senior nationals,” she adds.
Despite missing out his first four races in the GP3 series, 19-year-old Arjun Maini still stands tall in the 10th spot. His epic podium finish will probably be remembered for a while. “It was an amazing feeling to stand on the Formula 1 podium. This year, I’m looking forward to another strong season in GP3. After my rookie year was so strong, expectations are a lot higher for 2017. I cannot wait for the testing to begin!” says the Bengaluru teen.
Shall we just say, let the games begin?