As we celebrate the 69th Republic Day to remember the constitution of our great nation, lest we forget are those Indian Army Athletes who also made India proud. 26th January is an important landmark in Indian history. On January 26th each year, Indians celebrate the Constitution of India coming into force in 1950.
Indian Army Athletes – 26th January – A Moment of Pride
On this day, our Indian constitution became a reality and thus, the date “26th January” got etched in history for eternity. Needless to say, every year Republic day is celebrated with great pomp, enthusiasm and glory. Important governmental laws and acts were laid down on this day and hence it also marks as a day of pride for every Indian, old and young alike.
From school children to senior citizens and from offices to sports fields, everyone unfurls the National tricolour on this day, to pay their humble respect to their motherland.
On the 69th Republic Day, let’s take a look at those living legends, the Indian Army Athletes who apart from sacrificing their lives in order to protect us, also contributed greatly to the world of sports. The Indian army over the years has taken up several ‘talent generation programs,’ which are aimed to produce national and international level athletes. That is the reason today at every major sporting event we can see Indian army athletes making most of the Indian contingent.
On our Republic Day sports special let’s take a look at Indian Army Athletes who made India proud at the highest sporting events in the world.
Indian Army Athletes – Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore for Shooting
It was in the year 1998 that Lieutenant-Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore first stepped in a shooting range. And in just six years’ time, he became India’s first ever individual silver medal winner at an Olympic Games. Rathore got second position in the Men’s Double Trap event at Athens 2004.
Rathore had qualified for the final in fifth position with a score of 135. In the final he sealed a historic silver medal by shooting 44 points to end with a cumulative score of 179. He became the poster boy for the Indian army back then.
Born in to an army family, Rathore cleared the National Defence Academy (NDA) examination and served in the Indian army. Under him, he once led a team in tracking terrorists in Kashmir. The unit he was part of had killed 300 terrorists. By 2008, Rathore shifted his focus to the double trap event and went on to capture the individual and pair gold at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. A year before his Olympic success, he had won gold at the 2003 World Cup in Sydney.
After taking premature retirement from the Indian army, Rathore joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). When they came in power he was sworn-in as Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting in 2014. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award winner as of now is the Union Sports Minister of India. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore holds the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) for his Military Excellence. The Commonwealth Games medals and a silver in Olympic for India, highlights the quality of nurturing being done by the Indian Army.
Indian Army Athletes – Milkha Singh (Athletics)
Milkha Singh is one of the greatest Indian Army Athletes this nation has ever seen. He has earned the nickname ‘Flying Sikh’ because of his marvelous running speed on the tracks. He was born in 1935 in the Western Punjab of undivided India (now Pakistan).
Milkha Singh joined the army in 1953. On joining the Indian army, Milkha Singh got interested in and paid special attention to sports. Soon he started to train himself for 400 meter race. It was not long before, he succeeded in establishing a new record in 400 meter race and earned great fame and prestige.
In 1957, he established a new national record of 47.5 seconds in 400 meter race. In the Third Asiad (Asian Games) held at Tokyo (Japan) in 1958, Milkha Singh set two new records in 400 meter and 200 meter races respectively. In the 4th Asiad held at Jakarta (Indonesia), the Flying Sikh, again won a gold medal in the 400 meter race. In 1959, Government of India honoured Milkha Singh with ‘Padma Shri’ for his notable achievements in the field of sports. Milkha Singh at present is fully dedicated to the promotion of sports in India.
Milkha Singh, the four times Asian Games gold medal, one commonwealth gold medal winner and narrowly missed out on Olympic Bronze. One of best Indian army athletes, the Indian Army played a major role in the growth of Milkha Singh as a sport person at the international sport.
Indian Army Athletes – Jitu Rai (Shooting)
The farmer from Nepal is currently the best talent coming out from Indian army athletes. The Army shooter has risen immensely in the sport since starting off in 2007. This gets even more surprising as until 2006, Jitu was farming in eastern Nepal. A native of Sankhuwasabha in Nepal, Jitu applied joined the Indian Army at 20 and moved base across the border. He is the part of 11 Gorkha Rifles as a Naib-Subedar. On the shooting front, he wasn’t all that interested when he joined the army. In fact, he tried to get out of it, but gradually Rai noticed he was good at it. Even then, it took two attempts for him to become a permanent fixture at the renowned Army Marksman Unit in Mhau.
In current age of shooting, India has the highest expectations from Jitu Rai for medals. In fact, the Indian contingent is sure of him to win Gold not just at the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games, but also at the 2020 Olympics.
He got the best four rankings in the 50 meter pistol event held in 2014. The current number eight, Jitu Rai in the 50 meter air pistol is eleventh in the 10 meter air pistol. He won the World Cup for the sixth time by defeating the three-time Olympian Champion of Korea Jong Jin. In 2014 ISISF World Cup, Jitu produced sensation by winning three medals. This was the first time that an Indian shooter won so many medals in the World Cup. In 2016, Jitu had qualified for Rio. Since then he is believed to be India’s medal hope. One of modern day greats from the Indian army Athletes camp, Jitu Rai was also honored with the Arjuna Award.
The Nepal born, who faced a lot of controversy over his nationality has not only given a sporting career but was also given a new lease of life by the Indian Army.
Indian Army Athletes – Vijay Kumar (Shooting)
Of the two silver medals that came India’s way at the 2012 London Games, one was bagged by the camp of Indian army Athletes, shooter Vijay Kumar. He got India its second medal in the men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol. Kumar won the silver with a score of 30 in the final.
An Arjuna awardee and recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Vijay Kumar, in the second stage of qualifying with a score of 585, had broken the Olympic record of 583. He knew he had to start all over again. Watching the five targets at a distance of 25 meters, Vijay had to shoot all of them in four seconds. He took aim and fired at the five targets. Each miss proved costly and instead of the medal being decided at a score comprising prelim and final, it was just the final score which Vijay could manage.
As four shooters dropped out, the fight eventually boiled down to Cuban shooter Pupo and Vijay. The Cuban shot a four and Vijay two, confirming the silver. He was not able to qualify for 2016 Olympics
Born and brought up in Barsar village of Hamirpur district of Himachal Pradesh, Vijay, serves as Subedar Major (Warrant Officer Class I) in the Dogra Regiment (16th Battalion) of Indian Army. He was awarded a cash prize of 1 crore by the Government of Himachal Pradesh and 50 lakh by the Government of Rajasthan for his feat in London.
Vijay Kumar was not only India’s but also the Army’s star shooter, winning a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. The 29-year old Kumar who also won five gold medals at various Commonwealth Games says that his federation, family and the Indian Army have played a big role in his success.
Indian Army Athletes – Ram Singh Yadav (Marathon)
The last personnel to feature on the list of Indian Army Athletes, is Army Havildar Ram Singh Yadav. The army man from a village named Babian village, near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh has set many milestones that separate him from being a normal athlete. Born in 1980, the 37-year-old athlete still has the stamina that can compete with the finest of the African mainstream marathon runner. In his attempt at the Mumbai Marathon, 2008, Ram missed the B qualification standard of 2:18:00 for Beijing Olympics’ marathon event by a few seconds, and thus did not qualify.
Even after the failure, he never said no to marathon running, promised to himself to work hard with double efforts as he appeared in the 2012 Mumbai Marathon in which he qualified for the London Olympics.
After facing defeat in his previous attempt, Ram underwent training for 45 days at a high-altitude training center in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. 2012 Mumbai Marathon was the first event he took part in after his training. Ram took 2:16:59 to finish the race, well under the B qualification standard of 2:18:00. He finished 12th overall in the final standings. 2:16:59 is also the personal best of Ram.
Ram became the second Indian athlete ever to be qualified for the marathon event of the Olympics. Shivnath Singh of Bihar was the first Indian athlete to participate in the Olympics marathon. His record time holds 2:30:06 and finished 78th overall at the Olympics, with his growth trajectory going upward to make it on Top 10s.
Let’s, celebrate this Republic Day by saluting the efforts of Indian Army Athletes. They, by sheer hard work and talent, have made the nation proud at the highest sporting event.
From all of us at KreedOn, we wish every Indian a happy and prosperous Republic Day.