Quotes of the Year: Neeraj's golden quip, Chhetri's wisecrack and Nikhat's zinger

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2022 was an unforgettable year for Indian sport. Typically, the year was littered with its fair share of highs and lows, but more importantly, it was a year of some very important firsts.

ESPN India summarises 2022 with some of the best quotes from Indian sport this year.

It was a heartbreaking start to the year for the Indian Women's Football Team. What was supposed to be their time in the sun, at the AFC Asian Cup, was cruelly cut short as COVID-19 ripped through the squad, leading to India having to forfeit their spot in the competition.

"Speechless, heartbroken and sad," right-back Dalima Chhibber went on to say later.

Staying with Indian Football, how can we summarise a year without a Sunil Chhetri quip? It's been a tough couple of seasons in the Indian Super League (ISL) for the Bengaluru FC and India captain, but his humour has thankfully not left him. While congratulating Bart Ogbeche on becoming the ISL's all-time top-scorer, Chhetri wasn't averse to self-deprecation.

"Going by how many I've missed this season, your record should be safe from me for some time, my friend."

Boxing star Nikhat Zareen ended a long wait for herself by becoming world champion in the 52kg category earlier this year.

However, her immediate reaction to the medal showed us what she was most happy with in the immediate aftermath.

"First tell me, am I trending on Twitter? You know, that was one of my dreams, to trend on Twitter and if I am then I'm really happy."

She was trending, alright. World Champion Nikhat Zareen.

Kidambi Srikanth has seen it all in badminton, but even he couldn't have legislated for the wave of emotions that hit him after the historic Thomas Cup victory earlier this year.

Srikanth has made a promise, and it is one that Indian badminton fans are sure to hold him to.

"This may have been the first, but I assure you this won't be the last," he said.

Mumbai City FC's AFC Champions League run was a historic feat, as they became the first Indian side to register a win in the AFC Champions League. They finished second in their group, with two wins and seven points.

"We will take those learnings on to next season. Those experiences will really help shape us for the future," coach Des Buckingham said after their campaign.

That future has seen them sitting top of the table at the halfway stage of ISL 2022-23, with Buckingham's side yet to lose a game.

How would a year-in-review piece be complete without Neeraj Chopra? Indian athletics' Golden Boy became the first Indian man to win a medal at the World Championships, but it left him craving more.

"Yeah, but this isn't gold," he said after his silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in Eugene.

Sushila Devi Likmabam channeled her inner Neeraj Chopra after her silver medal in the 49kg Judo event at the Commonwealth Games.

"It's only silver," she said, "I'm not satisfied. It's not gold."

Sticking to the Commonwealth Games, Tejaswin Shankar's road to even participating in Birmingham was a long and winding one. But after his bronze medal, the high-jumper (and Deloitte employee) was clear that his sights for the future had been set.

"That's the plan, 9-5 accountant, 5-9 decathlete."

Murali Sreeshankar was having a torrid start to the Long Jump final in Birmingham, but with his fourth jump of the final, he became the first Indian man to win a medal in Long Jump at the CWG. What was he thinking? Very simple.

"It's just one jump."

Easy as that.

There were two types of pain at the Commonwealth Games for some Indian athletes, some physical, some mental. Jeremy Lalrinnunga was visibly injured before the Clean and Jerk section of his final in Birmingham, but he somehow pulled through the pain to win the gold.

"I suffered a lot today," said the youngster from Manipur. The suffering was worth it for the gold medal that adorned his neck.

The Indian mixed team in badminton lost their final at the Commonwealth Games to Malaysia, and the pain was visible, but it was a pain they channeled into more medals later during the Games.

"I'm so happy we have that pain. Me, Chirag [Shetty], [Kidambi] Srikanth anna, Treesa [Jolly], Gayatri [Gopichand]... we are all fired up. It's not like, 'ah it's done, and we got silver.' We want more," Satwiksairaj Rankireddy said. The Indian badminton contingent won at least one medal in every individual event that followed the mixed team event.

An enduring story that emerged from the Commonwealth Games was that of the Indian Lawn Bowls team. The Women's Fours team of Lovely Chaubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia and Ruparani Tirkey scripted history by winning a gold medal, but it was the camaraderie between the whole Lawn Bowls contingent that stood out.

"Did you see how they didn't even move from their seats the whole game?" Pinki asked pointing to the men's team who were at the venue in support.

Achanta Sharath Kamal finished 2022 with a Khel Ratna, after a haul of three gold medals and one silver medal. The mixed doubles gold medal [which he won partnering young Sreeja Akula], in particular, was one that he treasured.

"I never found the right partner. I have now," the greatest Indian table tennis player ever said after the final.

At the end of the year, Mirabai Chanu maintained her stature as one of the world's best women's 48kg weightlifters, with a silver medal at the World Championships.

But as seemed to be the theme of the year, she was not satisfied because there was one higher step to climb on that podium.

"I hope I'll be able to give India more of such moments, preferably a Gold at the Asian Games and Paris Olympics as well."

It summed up Indian sport in 2022. It was a year of athletes who were not satisfied with just any medal. Their sight remained laser-focused in their quest for that yellow metal.