The year 2021 was a unique experience for all sportspersons because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which added to the pressure on the performers because of the various restrictions and protocols. So, to come up with a great performance this year should be doubly satisfying.
Here's a look at the top male performers of the year 2021:
Marcel Hug (Para Athletics, Switzerland)
The year 2021 was very successful for Marcel Hug as he affirmed his status as a top racer with some dazzling performance. After bagging four gold medals in Wheelchair Racing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, the most decorated racer returned to Tokyo in November to smash the sport's 22-year-old World record to win the Oita Marathon. He has also won the New York and Boston marathon.
Zheng Tao (Para Swimming - China)
At the Tokyo 2020, he won four gold medals and set two World records in the process - a truly dazzling performance by any standard. He bagged gold medals in the men’s Butterfly S5 event with a World record timing of 30.62 seconds, the men’s Backstroke S5 event with a World record of 31.42s, and in the 50m Freestyle S5.
He was part of the Chinese quartet that won the gold in the mixed 4x50m Freestyle Relay. The 30-year-old, who lost both his hands to an electric shock, made his Paralympic debut at London 2012, winning a gold and two bronze medals, while in Rio he won a gold and a silver. Tokyo 2020 was by far his most successful Paralympic Games.
Pramod Bhagat (Para Badminton - India)
Four-time World Champion Pramod Bhagat won only one gold, the men's Singles SL3 title in Para Badminton, but it was the manner in which he won that makes it a memorable achievement. Trailing 4-12 in the second game, it would need a Herculean task to overcome the eight-point deficit. But a tenacious Bhagat rode on his self-belief and experience to make an incredible comeback and went on to beat Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell 21-14, 21-17 in 45 minutes. Bhagat is a multiple World Champion and was the favourite to win the title. Towards the end of the year, Bhagat won three silver medals in the Uganda Para Badminton International.
Brad Snyder (Para Triathlon - USA)
The former American Naval officer lost his vision doing duty in Afghanistan and took to swimming. Seven medals in Paralympics later, he turned to Para Triathlon in 2018 and claimed his first gold medal in Tokyo in the Men's PTVI event, winning 1:01.10. Earlier in the year, he was placed seventh at the AJ Bell World Triathlon Para Series, Leeds. Snyder also won a bronze medal in the ITU World Para Triathlon Series in Yokohama, Japan.
Manish Narwal (Shooting Para Sport - India)
Manish Narwal won the gold in the P4 mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The 19-year-old showed nerves of steel as he came back from the seventh position to shoot a meet record of 218.2. Narwal had set himself up well for Tokyo 2020 by winning gold at the 2021 Para Shooting World Cup mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event with a World record score of 229.1 points in the UAE in March this year. What makes Narwal so dazzling is that he has achieved this success at a young age and holds a lot of promise for the future.
Curtis McGrath, who took up competitive canoeing after he lost both his legs to a mine blast while serving with the Australian Army in Afghanistan, bagged two gold medals in Tokyo Paralympic. He topped the podium in men’s KL2 and the men’s VL3, which made its Paralympic debut in Tokyo. McGrath is a multiple gold medallist at the World Championships since 2014. In Tokyo, McGrath was at his best and dominated the field to claim both the gold medals.
Maksym Krypak (Para Swimming - Ukraine)
With a rich harvest of seven medals - five gold, one silver, and a bronze, in the S10 and SM10 categories, Maksym Krypak was the most titled athlete of the Tokyo 2020 Games. When this is added with the eight medals he won in the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016, it makes him one of the most successful swimmers in the history of the Paralympics. In Tokyo, the 26-year-old won gold in 100m Freestyle S10, 100m Butterfly S10, 200m Medley SM10, 100m Backstroke S10, and 400m Freestyle S10 while the silver came in 50m Freestyle S10 and a bronze medal in 4×100m Freestyle 34 points, making it the best performance of the year.
Dylan Alcott (Wheelchair Tennis - Australia)
One of Australia's most successful quad tennis players, Alcott is the only man to complete the Golden Slam in quad singles, winning singles titles in the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open, and the singles gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Alcott defeated Sam Schröder of the Netherlands in the final. In Tokyo, he also won a silver medal in the men's quads doubles, partnering with Heath Davidson. Throughout the year, Alcott was very consistent and did not lose many sets too. Soon after completing the Golden Slam, the 31-year-old announced his retirement from Tennis to concentrate on his career as a radio host and motivational speaker.
Dinesh Priyantha Herath Mudiyanselage (Para Athletics - Sri Lanka)
A former member of the Sri Lankan army, who had won a bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Paralympics in the F46 category, stunned everyone with a World record breaking throw of 67.79 metres. India's Devendra Jhajharia, the Rio gold medallist and the World record holder tried his best but could not stop the Herath Mudiyanselage juggernaut from rolling to the gold medal, becoming the first Sri Lankan to win two Paralympic medals as well as the first and only Sri Lankan to have won a gold medal either in Olympics or Paralympics.
Bonnie Bunyau Gustin (Para Powerlifting - Malaysia)
The 22-year-old won Malaysia’s first medal - a gold - at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, breaking the Games record with a lift of 228kg in the men’s -72kg category. It was also his country’s first Paralympic gold medal in the sport. Earlier in 2021, Gustin set a new World record of 230kg in the men's 72kg event at the 2021 World Para Powerlifting World Cup in Dubai, UAE. Gustin left school to focus on Powerlifting at the age of 15 and his rise has been impressive.
Sumit Antil (Para Athletics - India)
Though Sumit Antil won only a gold medal in the men's Javelin Throw F64 category, the manner in which he won it is what makes it a memorable performance. In Tokyo, the 23-year-old from Sonepat in Haryana, India, who lost his left leg below the knee after he was involved in a motorbike accident in 2015, dominated the show from the word go as he improved the World record three times in the final. He led the field from the start with a throw of 66.95 metres and followed it up with throws, eventually settling for a new World record of 68.06 metres.