With the Rio Olympics currently taking place, India’s largest ever contingent is sweating it out in Brazil, desperate to earn a medal. Shooter Abhinav Bindra missed out on his second medal at the Olympics when he finished 4th in the 10-metre air rifle event. He is the first and only Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics, achieving the feat in 2008, in Beijing.
Bindra is not the first shooter from India to perform well at the Olympics though. Four years before his Olympic glory, trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the silver medal in the men’s double-trap event in Athens. Rathore is considered as a ‘path-breaker’ in Indian sports, but apart from him, there are several other athletes who have paved the way of a particular sport for the first time in the country.
Here is a look at six such path-breakers:
1. Prakash Padukone (Badminton)
Prakash Padukone was by far the most established badminton player for India before the arrival of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu. Back in 1980, he won the All England Championship and became the first Indian to do so. He was also the first Indian to ascend to the World No. 1 ranking.
The gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games was his first major International title, which was followed by a bronze medal at the 1983 World Championships in Copenhagen.
‘Touch Play’ by Dev S. Sukumar is a book based on Padukone’s life story, and it details the struggles and successes of India's badminton pioneer quite well. The Bangalore-based former shuttler, along with cueist Geet Sethi, have co-founded an establishment called the ‘Olympic Gold Quest’ which aims at promoting sports in India.
Currently, players like Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth have been making it big in the world arena, but it was Prakash Padukone who globalised Indian badminton for the first time.