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5 unsung sports icons of India! Do you know them? Makhan Singh, Arati Saha, Shankar Laxman, Ashwini Nachappa, Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav


Article by: Sneha Singha, The North-Eastern Chronicle

Visual by: Pallab Neog

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No Indian athlete lasts in the spotlight until and unless they’re a cricketer.

From Dhyan Chand and Kapil Dev to Lovlina Borgohain and Chanu Saikhom Mirabai, India’s long and illustrious sporting history has produced a plethora of legends who have represented the country proudly on the international arena.

However, athletes who choose less popular sports go unnoticed despite putting in a lot of work and winning international competitions.

Also read: Why is Bollywood obsessed with biopics on sportspersons? Let’s go through these 5 movies

Here are five unsung sports stars from the past who deserve to be remembered:

Makhan Singh


‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh, the great Indian Olympian, once lost an important race of his life in the year 1962 in Kolkata National Games but who won the 400m? Makhan Singh, an another Olympian. At the 1962 Asian Games, he won gold and silver, as well as 16 medals at the National Games.

Makhan Singh began truck driving in Nagpur because he needed money to maintain his family. Unfortunately, he was involved in an accident and lost a leg as a result. His family was poor since he did not receive any financial assistance from the government.

In 2002, he died in abject poverty, and his widow was forced to pawn all of his medals.

Arati Saha


Arati set an all-India record in the 100m breaststroke and compete in the Olympics in Helsinki. Arati Saha achieved history in 1959, just five days after her 19th birthday, when she became the first and quickest Asian woman to swim across the English Channel in 16 hours and 20 minutes.

She was the first Indian woman to be given the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour, in appreciation of her unwavering resolve, indomitable spirit and outstanding courage the following year.

Shankar Laxman


Shankar Laxman’s life is a tragic one. It’s simply plain terrible to think about a sportsmen who had such success as an athlete but is now forgotten in history and died in poverty. He does, however, occupy a position among India’s greatest athletes.

He was the first goalie to captain an international hockey team, and he represented India in three consecutive Olympic finals. He earned two gold and one silver medals in the Olympics, as well as two gold and one silver medals at the Asian Games.

The Rock of Gibraltar was his moniker. In 1965, he was awarded with the Arjuna Award, and in 1967, he was awarded with the Padma Shri.

Despite all of his fame, he lived in abject poverty and died of gangrene.

Ashwini Nachappa


Nachappa’s finest achievement, despite winning three gold medals and four silver medals in three editions of the South Asian Federation Games, as well as a silver medal at the 1990 Asian Games, was outrunning PT Usha. She was able to accomplish this feat twice. She moved to acting after finding no future in the sport and has since been forgotten.

Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav


Next on the list of unsung sports heroes is Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav.

To be able to compete in the 1952 Olympics, he had to pay for his own airfare and lodging. He won bronze in bantamweight wrestling, becoming India’s first individual medalist since independence, a record that was not broken until Leander Paes won bronze in 1996.

He entered the police force as a Sub-Inspector in 1955. The guy who won the country’s first individual Olympic medal had to live out his days in poverty after losing his pension and dying in a car accident.

These individuals have done their best to make India proud despite a lack of training, facilities, support, and direction. We, on the other hand, do not recognise their achievements. So, rather of whining about how awful India is in sports, we should start praising those who are making us proud.

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