Mumbai: The blend of the prospective athletes in some disciplines for the forthcoming Tokyo Games has all the reasons for us, Indians, to feel excited, as 119 athletes converge onto the Olympic Village in the 17-day sports extravaganza, which unfolds in Tokyo from July 23.
And in this edition of the biggest stage, medal prospects for Indian athletes is much higher than the early editions.
Shooting, Archery, Wrestling, Weightlifting, Boxing, Athletics and Hockey are some of the sports India’s chances of making it to the podium holds good.
FPJ takes a look at the best bets at the games, as former Olympians have remarked that the Tokyo Games could turn out to be the greatest-ever event for India. While most of the big names have secured their tickets in their respective sports disciplines, the lesser-known sports such as fencing and equestrian have added colour to the Games for Indians.
The 26-year-old weightlifter is expected to be one of the brightest for India. The silver medallist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Mirabai has gone the extra mile by clinching the gold medal in the next edition of the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships prior to that. Chanu’s impressive performance continued after a bronze finish in the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Currently she is ranked World No. 2 in the 49 kg category, and is the sole Indian participant in weightlifting.
Many are of the opinion that Neeraj Chopra is the next best athlete after PT Usha at this level of competition. Chopra clinched his Olympic quota at an event in Potchefstroom, South Africa, in January 2020, and his best effort of 83.18m to win the javelin event at the Meeting Cidade de Lisboa in Portugal has added to his credentials as the best in business, and could fulfil the long wait of a medal at the Games in athletics.
Indians in wrestling have been a threat to the rivals across the globe and Vinesh Phogat will be one of the eight Indian wrestlers on the flight to the Tokyo Olympics. After suffering a career-threatening injury, she became the first Indian female wrestler to win a gold at the Asian Games.
Deepika Kumari continues to be the face of Indian archery. She had equalled the women’s recurve world record in 2016 and has been impressive ever since. The current World No. 1 rewrote the history books by becoming the first Indian to win three individual women’s recurve gold medals at the Archery World Cup in Guatemala City in April. She has upset many big names in individual women’s recurve event at Antalya, Turkey (2012), and Salt Lake City, United States, in 2018.
The current World No. 7 Sindhu will have a lot of expectations on her shoulders, especially after compatriots Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth’s failure to qualify for the Olympics. She will have laid to rest the defeats she suffered at the Swiss Open and All England Open finals this year. And with her long-time rival Carolina Marin of Spain pulling out of the Olympics due to a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, it should makes things better for Sindhu.
The only team event India stands a chance of making it to the podium is men’s hockey. And their recent run overseas despite the pandemic has raised a ray of hope. Ranked 4th in the world, men’s hockey team have been going through a resurgence in the past couple of years, and will be hoping to end a 41-year drought for an Olympic medal. Coached by Graham Reid and led by Manpreet Singh, the team has transformed into a well-drilled unit in recent times. Experienced names like Manpreet and PR Sreejesh will be ably supported by a host of exciting youngsters in the squad.
Manu Bhaker leads the shooters as this event as India’s biggest medal hope at the Tokyo Olympics. As such, much of the buzz regarding the Indian shooting contingent has been about Manu Bhaker. The teenage sensation is a part of the mixed team, as well as the 10m and 25m individual women’s air pistol. 10m air pistol is definitely her forte, with all her major honours coming in it. She is the only Indian shooter participating in three events in Tokyo.
He has lived up to his reputation. He defeated Enkhmandakh Kharkhuu of Mongolia 3-2 in the quarters. This was followed by a commanding display against Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov to reach the final. The 25-year-old boxer is one of India’s biggest medal prospects.
He will take part in the men’s freestyle 65kg category in his first-ever Olympics campaign in Tokyo, and he will be one of India’s brightest medal prospects. He is one of eight Indian wrestlers, who will travel to the Japanese capital hoping to bring back glory to the nation.
The wrestler, who has received the prestigious Padma Shri and Arjuna Award, is currently in Makhachkala, Russia where he is gearing up for the biggest tournament in his career. India’s chances of a medal or two in wrestling are high and Bajrang Punia will be one of the most eye-catching grapplers in Tokyo.
The current World No. 2 in the 10m men’s air pistol, Saurabh Chaudhary has made progress in leaps and bounds in recent years. He is 12-years younger to fellow countryman and World No. 1 Abhishek Verma. Eight gold medals at ISSF World Cups, coupled with gold medals in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and the 2018 Asian Games clearly proves his mettle. He is the only Indian shooter to win gold medals in ISSF World Cup, ISSF World Championship, Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games and Asian Air Gun Championship, Chaudhary will be hoping to now add the biggest prize of them all.