The shortlisted nominees for Kerala’s biggest sports award - Manorama Sports Star 2019 - instituted by Malayala Manorama in association with Santa Monica Tours and Travels, have been announced.
With a total prize money of Rs 6 lakh, Malayala Manorama-Santa Monica Tours and Travels Sports Star 2019, which will recognise and honour individuals for their extraordinary achievements, is the biggest sports award in Kerala in terms of the amount awarded.
The six final contenders picked by a three-member expert panel are: V K Vismaya (athletics), Chitharesh Natesan (body building), Nihal Sarin (chess), Sanju Samson (cricket), Anish P Rajan (disability cricket), and Ashique Kuruniyan (football).
The panel comprising Olympian T C Yohannan, writer and sports analyst N S Madhavan, and former cricketer and coach P Balachandran assessed the performances of Keralite sportspersons in different disciplines during the last year at national and international levels before finalising the list.
The winner will be determined via online/SMS voting.
The sportsperson with maximum number of votes will receive the Manorama Sports Star 2019 award and a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh. The second and third prize winners will be awarded trophies and a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1 lakh respectively.
Badminton star H S Prannoy was the winner of the maiden Manorama Sports Star award in 2017. Athlete P U Chitra and young footballer K P Rahul finished second and third respectively. In 2018, athlete Jinson Johnson walked away with the coveted award, while long-jumper M Sreeshankar and swimmer Sajan Prakash took the second and third prizes respectively.
Format to vote:
A.V K Vismaya: MSA<space>A
B.Chitharesh Natesan: MSA<space>B
C. Nihal Sarin: MSA<space>C
D. Anish P Rajan: MSA<space>D
E. Sanju Samson: MSA<space>E
F. Ashique Kuruniyan: MSA<space>F
The SMS should be sent to 56767123 (rates apply) in the prescribed format. For example, if your pick is the first person on the list, the format should be MSA<space>A.
For online voting, log on to https://specials.manoramaonline.com/News/2020/manorama-sports-star/index.html
Here’s a quick recap of each finalist’s performance in 2019:
A. V K Vismaya (athletics)
Vismaya was arguably India’s most improved woman athlete last year. Hailing from Eruvessi in Kannur district, the lanky runner had a memorable 2019 as she clinched three gold and a silver across the four legs of the Indian Grand Prix. She was a key member of the India’s 4x400m mixed relay team which won the silver medal at the Asian Athletics Championship held in Doha. She was also part of the 4x400 mixed relay team which qualified for the final at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha. The 22-year-old grabbed two gold and three silver medals in different meets held in Czech Republic and a silver at the Kutno Athletics Meet in Poland. She had also secured a bronze at the Ponzan Athletics Grand Prix in Poland last year.
B. Chitharesh Natesan (body building)
Chitharesh created history when he became the first Indian to win a Mr. Universe (Pro) title. The 33-year-old emerged the champion in the 90kg category at the 11th World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship(WBPF) in South Korea. He then outclassed as many as nine former world champions in weight categories ranging between 55kg to 110kg to take home the Mr. Universe (Pro) title. A native of Vaduthala in Kochi, Chitharesh had earlier won the Mr. Asia title at the Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship in Indonesia.
C. Nihal Sarin
Last year was a great one for chess prodigy Nihal Sarin. In June, he became the world's third youngest player to cross 2600 Elo points on FIDE's rating list, accomplishing this feat at the age of 14. He is also India's youngest ever to reach the milestone, beating the record set by Parimarjan Negi in 2009 as a 15-year-old. The teenager added another feather to his cap when he won the blitz event in the Asian Continental Chess Championship at Xingtai, China. In the high-profile event, in which 20 Grandmasters from across the continent took part, Nihal finished on top without losing a single game. Though he could not go beyond second round at the Chess World Cup 2019 that took place in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, from September 9 to October 4, Nihal pulled off a surprising 2-2 draw against former World champion Anatoly Karpov in a four-game rapid and blitz challenge exhibition match at Cap d’Agde, France, in November.
D. Anish P Rajan
Anish was the lone Kerala player in the 20-member India squad which lifted the inaugural T20 Physical Disability World Cricket Championship held in England last year. Primarily a left-arm spinner and an effective lower-order batsman, he was in fine nick throughout the tournament, picking eleven wickets in five matches including a five-for against Bangladesh which fetched him player-of-the-match award. He is the youngest of the three children of P Rajan and K K Shyamala, natives of Paramekkavu in Idukki district.
E. Sanju Samson
Kerala’s own ‘master blaster’ Sanju Samson grabbed the headlines last year when he eclipsed Pakistan’s Abid Ali (209 not out) to score the highest-ever List A score by a wicketkeeper-batsman as he smashed an unbeaten 212 off just 129 deliveries against Goa in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Sanju’s long wait to return to the national side also ended in 2019 when he secured a place in the 15-man squad for the T20I series against Sri Lanka. A regular in the India 'A' set up, the 25-year-old stroke-maker was rewarded for a good Hazare Trophy season, having amassed 410 runs in eight innings, including a double century. The Thiruvananthapuram native also became the youngest player to reach the 2,000 runs milestone in the Indian Premier League, leaving Virat Kohli behind.
F. Ashique Kuruniyan
A high point in Ashique’s career was the call-up to the Indian team for the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In 2019, he came up with impressive performances for Blue Tigers in different international competitions including the Intercontinental Cup, AFC Asia Cup and the SAFF Championship. Touted as the future of Indian football, the 22-year-old from Malappuram signed a four-year deal with Bengaluru FC last year and became an indispensable member of the champion side in no time.