Kochi: The shortlisted nominees for Kerala’s biggest sports award - Manorama Sports Star 2018 - instituted by Malayala Manorama in association with Santa Monica Tours and Travels, have been announced.
The six final contenders picked by an expert panel are (in alphabetical order): Ashique Kuruniyan (football), Nihal Sarin (chess), M Sreeshankar and Jinson Johnson (athletics), Sajan Prakash (swimming) and Vatsal Govind (cricket).
The winner will be determined via online/SMS voting. As many as 10 lucky persons who take part in the selection process will be given away Rs 10,000 each.
The SMS and online voting will be done in two phases. The sportsperson with maximum number of votes will receive the prestigious Manorama Sports Star 2018 award.
The panel comprising T C Yohannan, N S Madhavan, Xavier Pius and P Balachandran pointed out that three of the six finalists are young prospects who are capable of achieving bigger things in the future. The panel assessed the performances of Keralite sportspersons in different disciplines during the last one year at national and international levels before finalising the list.
Dipika Pallikal (squash), Sachin Baby and Basil Thampi (cricket), T Gopi, Muhammed Anas and V K Vismaya (athletics), and Kiran George (badminton) were also in contention.
The jury members lauded the teams that did the state proud by winning national-level titles in the previous year. They include the Santosh Trophy-winning football team, the U-23 women’s cricket team and men’s volleyball team who emerged national champions.
Badminton star H S Prannoy was the winner of the Manorama Sports Star award for 2017. Athlete P U Chitra and young footballer K P Rahul finished second and third respectively.
Format to vote:
1.Ashique Kuruniyan: BST<space>A
2. Jinson Johnson: BST <space> B
3. Nihal Sarin: BST<space> C
4. Sajan Prakash: BST <space> D
5. M Sreeshankar: BST<space> E
6. Vatsal Govind: BST<space> F
The SMS should be sent to 56767123 (rates apply) in the prescribed format. For example, if your pick is the first person in the list, the format should be BST<space>A. For online voting, log on to www.manoramaonline.com/sportsawards
Here’s a quick recap of each finalist’s performance in 2018:
A: Ashique Kuruniyan
Last year, Ashique made it to the national senior football team at the age of 20. He came up with impressive performances for Blue Tigers in different international competitions including the AFC Asia Cup. He has played 12 matches for the country so far.
B: Jinson Johnson
Jinson was in the form of his life last season, winning 1,500m gold and 800m silver at the Asian Games. It was India's first gold medal in the men's 1500m event at the continental event in 56 years. The 27-year-old also ran one of the most memorable races in recent times when he smashed legendary Sriram Singh's 42-year-old 800m record.
C: Nihal Sarin
It was a great year for chess prodigy Nihal Sarin. He became a Grandmaster at the age of 14 in August, 2018. He also clinched an individual gold medal at the World Youth Chess Olympiad in Ahmedabad and helped India finish runners-up. The teenager added another feather to his cap when he pulled off a surprising 51-move draw against five-time World Champion Viswananthan Anand at the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid tournament in Kolkata in November.
D: Sajan Prakash
Sajan Prakash created history at the 72nd National Senior Swimming Championship by setting a record in all the five events he took part. The 25-year-old was also adjudged the best swimmer of the meet.
E: M Sreeshankar
Last year, Sreeshankar bettered the national record in the men’s long jump set by Ankit Sharma by covering a distance of 8.20m at the National Open athletics championships held in Bhubaneswar. The 19-year-old is currently holds the No. 1 rank at the world junior level.
F: Vatsal Govind
Vatsal, the state U-19 cricket captain, has been in fine form throughout the season. He scored in excess of 1,000 runs at a staggering average of 125 in the Cooch Behar Trophy. In the seven innings, he hit a triple century (302 not out), two tons and six fifties to become the tournament’s top-scorer. His impressive performance for the U-19 side earned him a call up to the Kerala’s senior squad for the ongoing Ranji Trophy season.