In chess, it's the cream. India's top three men and women—all hail from the south. Among them, world champ Vishwanathan Anand (Chennai) and world no. 2 Koneru Humpy (Vijayawada). But it's not just the cerebral stuff where the south rules—as the stereotyping might go. There's a persistent mythology about the sheer physicality of sport being more suited to the 'rugged' northern type. Now, look at the facts. (Take a deep breath, it's a huge list.) Bangalore's Mahesh Bhupathi and Hyderabad's Sania Mirza have flirted with the world's best in tennis. Last year, Kerala's Geethu Anna Jose became India's first woman basketball player to venture overseas as a professional, and Chennai squash player Joshna Chinnappa has risen to world no. 41. And a couple of years ago, Coimbatore's Narain Karthikeyan chased a seemingly impossible dream, becoming the first Indian to race Formula One.
Karnam Malleswari, in the protein-rich discipline of weightlifting, has etched herself a place in Indian sporting history by winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2000. The legends of P.T. Usha and Shiny Wilson's feats on the athletics track will be narrated with pride for some time. Shiny was the first Indian woman to make it to the semi-finals at an Olympic event—Usha went a step further and qualified for the final, missing the bronze medal by a whisker. Kerala's Anju Bobby George became the first Indian to win a medal at the World Athletics Championships.