Views & Voices

India on the #RoadToTokyo: A sneak-peek into India’s leading contenders

The Olympic Torch is currently on the run aided by 10,000 runners across Japan and will light the Olympic cauldron at the Tokyo Games’ Opening Ceremony on 23 July. After a year and a half of fighting the pandemic, the organizers have finally decided to give a go-ahead to the quadrennial competition to be held in Japan sans spectators.

119 Indian athletes have qualified for the Games, with 67 male and 52 female participants – the highest ever. The average age of the contingent stands at 26.9 years, giving it a fairly youthful look. In this article, we will look at several aspects from an Indian perspective.

A flashback to Rio 2016

India had its previous biggest contingent at Rio 2016 but failed to make a telling mark, winning just 2 medals. PV Sindhu had won the silver, losing the final against Spaniard Caroline Marin and Sakshi Malik had won the Bronze in Women’s freestyle wrestling in the 58 kg weight category. While Malik has failed to qualify for the tournament, Sindhu continues to be one of India’s leading hopes.

India’s leading contenders

PV Sindhu (Badminton)

If she wins a medal in Tokyo, she will become only the second Indian after Sushil Kumar to have two Olympic podiums. Sindhu has a knack for performing at her best at the biggest stage and is seeded 6th in women’s singles.

Mary Kom (Boxing)

An Olympic bronze medalist in 2012, this could be her swansong and what better way than to complete the journey with another medal? She won a silver medal recently at the Asian Boxing Championships and her experience will hold her in good stead in the 51 kg category.

Saurabh Chaudhary (Shooting)

In the 10m Men’s Air Pistol, Chaudhary has been winning medals all around the globe. Ranked No. 2 in the world, he’s already won 2 gold medals at Shooting World Cups. He recently won the Bronze in June and will be eying the podium.

Saurabh Chaudhary & Manu Bhaker (Shooting)

India has a strong 15-member contingent for shooting, but this pair in 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team event is a firm favourite to stand on the podium. The duo won the Silver medal at the World Cup recently held in June.

Mirabai Chanu (Weightlifting)

India’s biggest name in weightlifting since Karnam Malleswari’s heroics at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Chanu is eying to become a household name if she isn’t one already. The World No. 4 competes in the 49 kg category and with North Korea’s withdrawal, Chanu’s chances to the podium have only been strengthened.

Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling)

She has a smile that can melt you, and then moves on the mat that can break your neck. Cousin of the famous Phogat sisters, Vinesh has won gold at CWG and Asian Games. She is currently the World No. 1 and competes in the 53kg event.

Bajrang Punia (Wrestling)

With Sushil Kumar in custody, India’s hope in men’s wrestling hinges on Bajrang, the second seed in the 65kg freestyle category. Nicknamed the ‘Tank’, Punia has won a massive number of trophies and the nation expects him to continue the same at his first appearance at the Olympics.

Atanu Das & Deepika Kumari (Archery)

The power couple of Indian Archery was untouchable during the World Cup in Mixed Team Recurve and India hopes the form continues. Deepika is also the lone contender in Women’s Recurve, being the World No. 1.

Amit Panghal (Boxing)

Vengeance often brings out the best in champions, and India hopes it does the same to Panghal. Losing the Asian Championships final to Olympic holder Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan, the 25-year-old has made the world sit up and take notice on several occasions. Will Tokyo be the next?

Neeraj Chopra (Javelin Throw)

The dark horse, Chopra qualified for the Olympics with a throw of 87.86m at an event at Potchefstroom, South Africa in January 2020, easily bettering the qualifying mark of 85m. He will be raring to go after having participated in a number of tournaments since recovering from an acute ankle injury.

– Puneet Tripathi,
Sports Journalist

The Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8. Watch this space for all the updates.

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