Moment of the Year: Saurav Ghosal's tears lay bare a lifetime of emotions

Saurav Ghosal reacts after winning India's first ever singles medal at the Commonwealth Games in squash PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

As a memorable 2022 draws to end, ESPN India picks ten images that tell the story of the most extraordinary Indian sports moments witnessed over the year. Our fourth moment features Saurav Ghosal, in tears after winning bronze in men's singles squash at the Commonwealth Games.

Tears are a peculiar phenomenon.

On the face of it, it's a simple physical response to emotion, but such is the complexity of human emotion that tears come forth at varied times. There are happy tears, sad tears, painful tears, angry tears, relieved tears, grateful tears, sometimes even confused tears. One is rarely able to pinpoint which emotion is behind a set of tears, but it's just as easy to box them all up and just employ that oft-overused phrase 'overcome by emotion'.

Saurav Ghosal was 'overcome by emotion' after winning bronze in the men's singles squash event at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The visual proof was right there - Ghosal, knees bent, tearing up in the corner of the squash court after his victory over defending champion James Willstrop.

Were those happy tears? Happiness at becoming India's first ever male singles player in squash to win a CWG medal? Underlining his status as India's greatest ever male squash player.

Were those sad tears? Remembering the pain of losing Malcolm Willstrop a year prior, his longtime mentor and coach, whose son he'd just defeated? A 16-year coaching relationship that blossomed beyond that of master and pupil, a debt he could never repay, no matter what he won. To whom he dedicated this medal.

Were those tears of relief? A multitude of near misses - at the World Championships and even at the CWG, where a shock second-round exit in 2018 forced a change in style that led to future success. Finally earning a long-awaited singles medal at the CWG at the age of 35.

Were those confused tears? Defeating long-time friend James Willstrop in three games (11-6, 11-1, 11-4) while also ending his hoodoo over him (Ghosal had lost eight of his last nine against James, including a painful bronze medal match in the 2014 CWG). Yet, watching James' 39-year-old body creak as his own persevered - a reversal of roles after training together for years.

Were those grateful tears? Gratitude to a loving family, to a supportive wife whom he scaled barriers to celebrate with later, a relationship that had its own share of ups-and-downs?

It takes eons to sift through the complexity of human emotion - hell, there's an entire industry built around it. Yet, as it happens so often in sports, the media point a microphone at an athlete who's just experienced the pinnacle of their career, possibly life, and ask a simple, hopeful question:

How are you feeling?

What possible answer exists to convey the depth of emotion they're experiencing? It's no wonder we are left with cliched answers, which Ghosal understandably employed, calling it a 'historic day for Indian squash.' Yet, truthfully, he'd already answered that question while taking a moment for himself earlier.

In that corner, it was just him, his complexity as a human, his tumultuous career, a lifetime of emotions coursing through him.

How are you feeling?

Tears, after everything, was the only correct answer.