The sky is not the limit for these inspirational sports personalities who have made their names outshine and have brought laurels to the country by setting a benchmark in their respective fields. Hailing from some of the lesser known places of Uttarakhand these superstars of sports are role models for the youngsters who dream of soaring high but are afraid to fall. If you need some inspiration to chase your dreams then have a quick look at the 11 most influential sports personalities who have proved that if you have the zeal to follow your dreams then neither money nor excessive pressure from family can become a hurdle between your success.
Born in the lavish surroundings of Dehradun, Abhinav Bindra has set a benchmark in shooting. This young shooter has done his schooling from the prestigious Doon School. He is a 10m air rifle title winner at Beijing Olympics Games, 2006 ISSF World Shooting Championships and a title winner at 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow. Apart from this Abhinav has also bagged a gold medal in men’s hockey team and is currently serving as the board advisor member in the Go Sports Foundation, Bangalore.
Notable Achievements: Abhinav Bindra has been conferred with “Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna”in 2001 and a Padma Bhushan Award for his noteworthy achievements. Bindra was also the first Indian to win world championship gold in Zagreb and a gold medal in Paris event.
The shooting sensation Jaspal Rana hails from Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Jaspal Rana who is one of the finest shooters of Uttarakhand was trained by his father, Narayan Singh Rana, a BSF officer. When the 12-year-old Rana made the national debut in the 31st National Shooting Championship at Ahmedabad, nobody would have imagined that a 12-year-old boy would take away the silver medal. In the year 1994 at the 46th World Shooting Championship (Junior Section), Rana won a gold medal for Standard Pistol Shooting that proved to be another big milestone in his journey. Rana has earned more than 600 medals in both national and international arena of shooting. For his contribution in the field of shooting Jaspal Rana was conferred with the Arjuna Award.
This inspiring Pahari lady has scaled several rigid mountains and arduous peaks of India and abroad. Born on May 24, 1954, in a the hush village of Nakuri in Uttarkashi, the simple Pahari girl Bachendri Pal left everybody in awe when she became the first Indian woman to reach to the summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Being nurtured in the modest family of a border tradesman who supplied groceries from India to Tibet, Bachendri’s feat is an inspiration for many. A true adventurer by heart, Bachendri with her friends mapped the lengths and breadths of 13,123 feet high peak during a school picnic. Impressed by her outstanding performance Bachendri was sent to college for higher studies and she became the first girl to do NIM course in 1982. Pal faced severe backlash when she choose mountaineering over studies, her family and relatives opposed her idea as they wanted her to do a reputed and safe job like becoming a school teacher. But when she created history by becoming the first woman to climb the Mount Everest in 1984 Bachendri proved that chasing your dreams is better than living a mediocre life.
Accolades conferred on Bachendri Pal: Bachendri’s name is written in the 1990’s Guinness Book of World Records. She has received a Padma Shri, an Arjuna Award, National Adventure Award by the Government of India and an Honorary Doctorate from the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University (formerly known as Garhwal University) in 1997. She was also the first recipient of Virangana Lakshmibai Rashtriya Samman 2013–14, given by the Ministry of Culture, Government of Madhya Pradesh, India at Gwalior 18 June 2013 for her personal achievement in Adventure sports and women’s upliftment in the country.
A left-handed Batswoman and slow left-arm orthodox bowler, Ekta Bisht is the first woman from Uttarakhand who represented India in National and International grounds. This cricket queen was born on February 8, 1986, in Almora and has made Uttarakhand proud with her achievements.
Born in a Rajput family, Dhoni has a deep connection with Uttarakhand as his paternal village lies in Lvali in the Lamgarha block of Almora district. This cricketing legend does not need any introduction as he is the current and most favourite captain of Indian national cricket team. Under Dhoni’s captaincy, India has won the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, the CB Series of 2007-08, the Asia Cup, the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup and the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
He became the first captain to win all three ICC limited-over trophies and lead India to number one position in the ICC Test rankings. Under his captaincy, India became the first team in more than 40 years to whitewash Australia in a Test series. Several accolades such as ICC ODI Player of the Year Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and the Padma Shri have been bestowed on him. In 2011, Time magazine included Dhoni in its Time 100 list of the “Most Influential People in the World.” In 2012, Sports Pro listed Dhoni as the sixteenth most marketable athlete in the world. In the 2015 edition of the Forbes, he was ranked as 23rd in the list of highest paid athletes in the world with approx earnings of US$31 million.
The Malik sisters are the World’s first siblings and twins to climb Seven Summits, to complete Adventurers Grand Slam and Three Poles Challenge. Their name has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first female twins to climb Mount Everest and the first siblings, first twins and youngest persons as well as First South Asians to complete Explorers Grand Slam last degree. The twin sisters reside in Dehradun with their family and have received 10+2 education from Guru Nanak Fifth Centenary School, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand.
This right-handed batsman was born in the Kumaon region to Kumaoni Rajput family and has been honoured by the Uttarakhand government for his praiseworthy work. Unmukt’s parents are teachers who belong to the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. This young cricketer has won Under 19 World Cup and has played IPL matches for Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians. This great cricketer is rising as a shining star in sports and has been appreciated by many biggies of the cricket like Australian legend, Ian Chappell.
Unmukt’s struggle penned in a book: Unmukt Chand has written a book called “Sky is the Limit” which narrates his journey from a little boy who used to practice in his backyard to leading as a captain and winning the Under 19 World Cup in a foreign land.
Born in Almora district of Uttarakhand, Mir Ranjan Negi’s life is a roller coaster journey as he saw many ups and down in his personal as well as professional life. His life story has been documented in the super hit Bollywood film called Chak de India. During the 1982 Asian Games, false accusations were put on Mir Ranjan Negi for being a traitor as India lost the final field hockey match from 1-7 against Pakistan. Negi who was the goalkeeper was accused of having conceded those goals. Many leading newspapers and tabloid mirrored him as a match-fixer who was bribed by Pakistan. Few ignorant people even questioned whether he is a Muslim as his first name Mir suggests that. However untrue but these rumours ruined Mir Ranjan Negi’s life and he was let go by the Indian Hockey Team and quit the game for many years.
He made his entry as a goalkeeping coach to the Indian national field hockey team in 1998 Asian Games in which his team won a gold medal. Four years later, he became the goalkeeping coach of the Indian women’s national field hockey team. That year his team bagged a gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He was also the assistant coach for the women’s team when it bagged gold in 2004 Hockey Asia Cup.
2006 Chess Grandmaster, Parimarjan Negi was born on February 9, 1993, in Uttarakhand. Parimarjan Negi became the second youngest chess grandmaster in the history of chess at the young age of 13 in 2006. He also played on the top board for the bronze medal-winning Indian team in 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso Norway. Parimarjan was bestowed with Arjuna Award in 2010 by the Government of India.
Negi received his first grandmaster norm at the 2005/06 Hastings International Chess Congress, the second GM at the 4th Parsvnath International Open Chess Tournament in Delhi. He earned his last GM norm on July 1, 2006, by drawing with Russian Grandmaster Ruslan Sherbakov at the Chelyabinsk Region Superfinal Championship in Satka, Russia. Negi then became the youngest chess grandmaster in India and the second youngest in the world.
A rising star of the IPL, Manish Pandey is an international cricketer and a native of Uttarakhand. Born on September 10, 1989, in the City of Lakes Nainital, Pandey started playing cricket when he was studying in third standard in Kendriya Vidyalaya No 1, Devlali. He was the member of the winning team of 2008 Under-19 World Cup. Manish Pandey was also the first Indian to score a century in the IPL and has played for Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL matches.
One of the highest paid cricketers in the history of IPL auction Pawan Negi hails from Almora and later moved to Delhi. This 23-year-old slow-left-arm orthodox bowler stole the limelight when he was bought by Delhi Daredevil for whooping Rs 8.5 crores leaving Yuvraj Singh behind. Pawan Negi made his Twenty20 International debut for Indian cricket team against the United Arab Emirates cricket team in the 2016 Asia Cup. He plays for Delhi in the first-class Ranji Trophy competition and has also played List A and Twenty20 cricket for the team. Pawan Negi is the star of the IPL matches and has played for Delhi Daredevils and Chennai Super Kings.