On the occasion of World Athletics Day 2021, today we will be re-visiting India’s top 4- best athletes of all time. But before we discuss that, let’s understand the history, objective and significance of World Athletics Day, a day that celebrates & promotes athletes across all sports.
World Athletics Day: History
The World Athletics Day was introduced to the world in 1996 by the IAAF (International Amateur Athletic Federation). The day was introduced to spread awareness among the world population, especially kids and youth regarding the importance of fitness, and to make them aware of the athletic giants in various categories.
The idea of the day was laid down by the then IAAF President Primo Nebiolo. One should note that the process of founding the World Athletics began much sooner in 1912. The process started after the conclusion of the 1912 Summer Olympics in Sweden. A meeting was held in Berlin in which 27 representatives took part from 17 different national federations.
Significance & Objective of World Athletics Day
The day gives several schools, colleges and other institutions to safeguard the interest of children and youth in sports and athletic activities. Various institutions on World Athletics Day hold events such as marathons, shot put, weight lifting, hurdle jump, etc. Through these events, participants and viewers are made to understand the importance of physical activities.
India’s 4 Most Influential Athletes of all time
1) Major Dhyan Chand
If one asks any Indian to think of the best Indian hockey player, they would immediately call out the name of Major Dhyan Chand. Such was the prowess of Dhyan Chand in the hockey landscape that India celebrates National Sports Day on his birthday as an honour to him. He was known as the Wizard of Hockey because of his astounding control of the ball.
Over the course of his career, he scored 570 goals, won three Olympic gold medals and put the Indian Hockey team front and centre of the world hockey landscape. It was a golden era of hockey for India as due to Dhyan Chand’s influence, the nation went on to win 7 out of the 8 Olympics from 1929-1964.
He inspired a generation of Indians to take the sport of hockey.
2) Milkha Singh
Also known as “The Flying Sikh”, was a sensation at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. In the 1957 Asian Games held at Tokyo he grabbed 2 Gold medals for his country in the 200m and 400m sprints. Later the same year, Milkha Singh had another historic moment in his career in the Commonwealth Games.
He was competing against Malcolm Spence who was one of the best runners of that time. But the Flying Sikh went on to beat him to receive a goal, and in the process ended up setting a new 400m national record at 46.6 seconds.
Milkha Singh inspired several Indians that they should also aim for the moon.
3) Paan Singh Tomar
Soldier first, athlete next, dacoit later, that’s the history of this controversial albeit legendary athlete from India. Born in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhidosa village, Tomar began his historical journey by serving as a subedar. During that time legend has it that he had an argument with his instructor who as a punishment asked him to run laps of the parade ground. The instructor witnessed Tomar running like a wind and then pushed him into being an athlete.
Although he was reluctant, Tomar went on to represent the nation in the 1958 Asian Games. For the next 7 years he was the undefeated steeplechase champion of India. After his retirement, his life completely changed and he later turned into a dacoit.
He inspired us all to work on our talent and not let it go to waste.
4) Devendra Jhajharia
A legendary Paralympic athlete, Devendra is a javelin thrower with just one arm and 2 Gold medals. He made the record of being the first Indian to win 2 golds at the Paralympics. His first one came at the 2004 Summer Paralympics held at Athens while second one came in 2016 Rio Summer Paralympics.
He’s also the first Paralympic to win the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the highest sporting award bestowed by the Indian government. The Paralympic is an inspiration to all able-bodied and specially abled people.