2020 was a year like no other. It brought along hurdles that even the best of athletes weren't prepared for. From dealing with a pandemic to coping with a global lockdown, it was a year that, for a significant amount of time, maintained a distance from sport (pun intended). However, even in a hard year like this, many Indian athletes continued to hustle, making a mark against all odds.
We, at ESPN, list down a few such stand-out performers.
Ritu Phogat Ritu Phogat (L) maintained a perfect 4-0 record in her fledgling MMA career, beating Jomary Torres (R) of the Philippines by technical knockout at the One Championship: Big Bang promotion. Ritu Phogat/Facebook Read more - Breaking the mould: Ritu Phogat steps from the dangal to the cage Jehan Daruvala One for the history books: Jehan Daruvala became the first Indian to win a Formula 2 race during the Sakhir Grand Prix in December. Clive Mason/Formula 1 via Getty Images Read more - Getting into higher gear: After maiden F2 win, Jehan Daruvala targets 'fight for the championship' Bala Devi Bala Devi became Rangers FC's first Asian international player earlier this year. She scored her first goal - the first Indian woman to do so in a European league - as the Scottish club defeated Motherwell in December. AIFF Media Read more - Bala Devi returns to action in Rangers FC's season-opening win Avinash Sable Avinash Sable's time of 1:00:30 was a new national record at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in November, beating the previous one of 1:03:46 held by Kalidas Hirave. He further became the first Indian to run a half marathon under 61 minutes. ADHM 2020 Read more - Avinash Sable looks to push himself more after surprising half marathon success Nihal Sarin At 14 years and 10 months, Grandmaster Nihal Sarin crossed 2600 Elo in the live rating list in October to become the youngest-ever Indian and second-youngest in history to do so. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Read more - Nihal Sarin: India's speed chess genius Sumit Nagal Sumit Nagal in action against eventual champion Dominic Thiem in the second round of the 2020 US Open. Nagal's first-round victory was the first Grand Slam main-draw match win of his career. Al Bello/Getty Images Read more - Sumit Nagal wants his racket to do the talking Pritam Kotal Pritam Kotal was India's most consistent footballer in 2020 -- the best defender in the defence-first team that was the ISL champion in the first half of the calendar year and table-topper in the second. Deepak Malik / Sportzpics for ISL Read more - ATK, Chennaiyin dominate ISL Team of the Season Rani Rampal Safety first: Rani Rampal -- who successfully led the Indian women's hockey team to an Olympic berth -- wore a PPE kit as she was conferred with the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in August. Kiren Rijiju/Twitter Read more - Decoding Rani Rampal: Illusionist, surgeon, hammer, nail Anshu Malik Anshu Malik became the sole Indian to finish on the podium at the Individual Wrestling World Cup in December, winning a silver medal in the women's 57kg division. WrestlingtvIND/Twitter Read more - 1 medal, 15 wins, 28 losses: What Indian wrestlers learned from the World Cup Ankita Raina In a year with limited opportunities, Ankita Raina - India's highest-ranked women's singles tennis player - won a whopping five ITF titles this season, two in singles and three in doubles. Ankita Raina/Twitter Read more - Breaking into singles top 100 remains Ankita Raina's aim post doubles success Bikash Yumnam Bikash Yumnam became the first Indian to make The Guardian's 'Next Generation' list - a selection of the best young footballers on the planet, published annually by the English newspaper. Minerva Academy
Read more - How 'Delap throws' helped Bikash Yumnam gain international fame