Over the years, India has contributed countless gems to the sporting industry. While cricket is the country’s sporting religion, it also takes pride in producing some great athletes. In fact, many of these sporting legends have inspiring stories as they come from modest backgrounds without the resources and facilities to build successful careers.

The success stories of these influential men and women prove that willpower, perseverance, and determination can play the greatest role in a person’s success regardless of all odds against them. Here is a list of the top 10 inspirational Indian athletes.


Also known as “The Flying Sikh,” Milkha Singh inspired millions with his exemplary performance on the track. He hailed from a small village in Punjab and went through the trauma of the Partition, during which he lost his parents. But the legendary athlete emerged as a real winner, bagging medals at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games. He narrowly missed the Olympics bronze in 1960. But his grit and resilience make him one of the greatest Indian athletes ever.


Another inspirational athlete who deserves a special mention is P.T. Usha, one of the best track and field athletes India has ever had. Usha made it big despite societal and financial constraints. Her first feat was a 100m silver medal at the 1982 Asian Games. But his real achievement came at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, where she bagged four gold and silver medals. Like Milkha Singh, Usha too missed out on a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics.


M.C. Mary Kom is a renowned boxer who inspires others with incredible achievements despite obstacles such as poverty and societal expectations. Coming from Manipur, Mary Kom beat the odds with her talent and hard work, bringing home multiple medals at the Asian Games and the World Championships. Her biggest achievement was a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Kom’s determination makes her a role model for women.


Next on the list of the country’s most inspiring athletes is sprinter Dutee Chand. Hailing from Odisha, Chand was discriminated against due to her sexual orientation but is now a trailblazer for LGBTQ+ rights. She also faced challenges due to hyperandrogenism, which led to her initial disqualification from competing. But she overcame the setbacks and brought home a gold medal from the 2019 World University Games and two silver medals from the Asian Games in 2018.


Neeraj Chopra, a famous athlete and javelin thrower, inspires youngsters with his relentless dedication and hard work. His first achievement was gold at the 2016 South Asian Games. He also became the first Indian athlete to set a javelin throw world record at the IAAF World U20 Championships in the same year. The 2021 Tokyo Olympics marked the most iconic moment in his career when he bagged gold, becoming the first Indian ever to bring home a track and field medal at the games.


Hima Das from Assam started her career in football and later switched to athletics in 2016, going on to win laurels on the track. Her winning spree started with 400m gold at the World U20 Championships, making her the first Indian to do so. She also has multiple medals at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games to her credit. Das received the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2018 and is a role model for young women in sports, despite coming from a modest background.


Sunil Chhetri made a mark in football, a relatively less popular sport in the country where cricket is a religion. But Chettri brought accolades for India by playing for several leading clubs abroad after starting his career with Mohun Bagan in 2002. The all-time leading goal scorer for team India, Chhetri has the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri to his name. His passion and dedication to football have inspired many youngsters to take up football as their sport.


Deepika Kumari’s journey from obscurity to fame is truly inspiring. She joined the Kharsawan training camp only for food and accommodation but trained to become one of the leading archery players in the country. Deepika even worked with homemade bows and arrows initially because she did not have the resources to buy professional archery equipment. She went on to bag gold in archery at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She also emerged as the World’s #1 player at 18.


Devendra Jhajharia is a Paralympian who made India proud with his exemplary performances as a javelin thrower. Unfortunately, he lost his arm in an accident as a child, but it hardly stopped him from chasing his passion. His stint started with gold at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, following which he brought home another one at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Jhajharia bagged many more medals at the Asian Para Games and the World Championships, beating his disability to become one of the greatest Indian athletes.


Deepa Karmakar made it big in gymnastics despite being born with flat feet, a condition regarded as unfavourable for gymnasts. Moreover, she hardly had access to financial support and good training facilities. Born in Tripura, she created history as the first Indian female gymnast to participate in the Olympics in 52 years. She also got acclaim for performing the Produnova vault, which got her fourth place at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Besides the feat, Deepa has bagged multiple medals at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Gymnastics Championships. These legendary athletes motivate and inspire young people to look beyond adversities and limitations, and rely on their hard work, passion, and talent. They truly are real winners!

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