Best sports books: Read the amazing journey of India's top Olympians

From champion Abhinav Bindra's tale to Mary Kom's story, here are some of the best Indian sports books to read on Indian Olympians.
By Andre Pitts

Nothing can match live sport and the drama that unfurls on the field. But the stories can be relived through movies or books. 

While sports movies are often limited by time and depend on artistic license to dramatise the story, books can provide the complete picture of the athlete or sporting events that are now stuff of legends.

Here’s a look at a few books on India’s Olympic triumphs that tell the best tales.

A Shot at History: My Obsessive Journey to Olympic Gold and Beyond

A Shot at History is a story that charts the journey of Abhinav Bindra, India’s first and only individual Olympic gold medallist till date. The book journals Abhinav Bindra’s history-making career that saw him become the first Indian to win a world championship gold besides his Olympic gold. A tale of triumph emerging from heartbreak, it offers insight into how he became a great shooter after a freak occurrence denied him gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Defeat at Athens transformed Abhinav Bindra as a shooter who was hell-bent on redemption following heartbreak in the 2004 Olympics. Authored by Rohit Brijnath and Abhinav Bindra himself, the book also details how he became a scientist who was ever ready for any experiments, including mapping his own brain.

Dipa Karmakar: The Small Wonder

A story of passion, toil and dedication, Dipa Karmakar: The Small Wonder, tells us the story of the first-ever Indian woman to participate in gymnastics at the Olympics. Winner of the Biography of the Year at the Ekamra Sports Literature Awards in 2019, the book authored by Bishweshwar Nandi, Digvijay Singh Deo and Vimal Mohan provides a vivid account of Dipa Karmakar’s life.

The book documents her journey from lows as a child to competing at the Olympics in Rio 2016, where she landed the fearsome Produnova vault. It also shows how her fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics became a defining moment for the sport in the country.

Dipa Karmakar’s journey from Tripura to the heart of a nation is one of inspiration and determination to battle against all odds. Her struggles saw her receive India’s highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

My Olympic Journey: 50 of India's Leading Sportspersons on the Biggest Test of Their Career

Authored by Digvijay Singh Deo and Amit Bose, My Olympic Journey chronicles the stories of 50 leading Indian Olympians. It brings a first-person point of view through the lens of some of the best sportspersons that the country has produced. Some of the accounts in this book include that of Sushil Kumar, Leander Paes, Karnam Malleswari, Abhinav Bindra and Balbir Singh. This alone makes it one of the best Indian books on sports.

Pioneers of Indian sport like Milkha Singh, PT Usha and Anjali Bhagwat also reveal their hopes, superstitions and challenges in the pages. While some of these stories are certain to invoke a hearty laugh, others could see you shed a tear by opening your eyes to the struggles that a few of these athletes had to overcome.

Dreams of a Billion: India and the Olympic Games

Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta put together a collection of India’s finest moments at the Olympic Games over the years. Dreams of a Billion: India and the Olympic Games features the stories of legends like MC Mary Kom, PV Sindhu and Abhinav Bindra.

The book also asks pertinent questions like how does a country of a billion and more have so few achievements to show for itself at the Olympics.

Besides a quick recap of India’s past at the Games, it also offers a realistic insider’s view of what goes on behind the scenes in the Indian Olympics world and assesses India’s preparation for Tokyo 2020. It's one of the best Indian books centred around the Games.

Unbreakable

The story of the legendary MC Mary Kom, Unbreakable gives readers an idea about the journey that the six-time world champion has undertaken. Born to a family of limited means, this book tells us about the struggle and passion that Mary Kom possessed to make it to the pinnacle of the sport.

From her tough childhood and navigating through the politics that come with Indian boxing, this book has it all. Marriage, winning the world championship and, of course, what it takes to make it as a woman in what many – incorrectly – deem as a man’s sport, are just a few interesting topics in this first-hand account of her journey that’s authored by Mary Kom.

Whatever hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh reads

Known as the prankster in the Indian men’s hockey team, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh is more often than not the life of the dressing room. When away from the sport, though, the man from Kerala makes the most of his time. The keeper reckons that reading will help him in his career post retirement where he may have to hold an office job.

PR Sreejesh read over 50 books in 2020 finding comfort in them during a testing year

“All these books made me a calmer person,” PR Sreejesh told Firstpost. He found the book The 5 AM Club particularly impactful.

“I like to mix fiction and non-fiction books. I read motivational books in the morning, cause that’s the time you’re fresh,” PR Sreejesh said. “I read fiction at night because by then I am tired and need some sort of entertainment.”

PR Sreejesh also reads plenty of financial self-help books and even goes on to offer junior hockey players investment tips 

“I also read a lot of autobiographies to see how others dealt with their issues,” he added.