Tokyo Olympics: From shooters Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker to archer Deepika Kumari, a look at India’s top medal hopefuls
New Delhi | Jagran Sports Desk: Tokyo Olympics will begin from July 23, with India set to send one of its largest Olympic contingents this time. So far, 115 Indian athletes have qualified for Tokyo Olympics. While India won three Olympic medals in Beijing in 2008, the tally peaked to six in London (2012) and came down at two in Rio (2016). If India is to better its London Olympics performance, a lot will depend on the performance of India’s star athletes of recent years. Like London, shooting remains India’s best shot. However, boxing, badminton and wrestling too remain the sports with high medal hopes.
A look at India’s medal hopefuls for Tokyo Olympics 2020:
A total of fifteen shooters have qualified for Tokyo Olympics so far, the biggest shooting contingent India has ever taken into Olympics. Among these, India’s top medal hopefuls remain 19-year-olds Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary, both in their 10m air pistol events respectively. Saurabh took the nation by storm in 2018, when he won the Gold in Asian Games in Jakarta in 10m Air Pistol. Bhaker on the other hand, had won two gold medals at the 2018 International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup. However, Manu had finished at sixth spot in ISSF World Cup, 2019 in Beijing and it remains to be seen how she fares in the Olympics.
In 10m Air rifle, Divyansh Singh Panwar remains another medal hopeful in shooting. A silver medalist at Beijing-held ISSF World Cup in 2019, like Saurabh and Manu, the 18-year-old goes to his career's first Olympic meet in Tokyo.
In Women’s 10m Air rifle, the current World number 1 Elavenil Valarivan also remains a stealthy medal hopeful in Tokyo. In World Junior World Cup in Germany in 2019, Elavenil had won the gold and impressed the best amongst India’s shooting landscape.
India’s lone Olympic gold-winning athlete, Abhinav Bindra raised optimism recently when asked about hopes from Olympic medals in Tokyo from shooting. “Never before in our history have we gone into an Olympics starting as absolute favourites. The world is looking at us now, that for gold medals Indian athletes start as favourites,” Abhinav Bindra told The Times of India.
When wrestler Sakshi Malik won the bronze medal in Rio Olympics in 2016, her coach Ishwar Dahiya told a TV channel that Wrestling would have given at least one more medal to India if not for Vinesh Phogat’s injury back then. “Vinesh ka toh medal pakka tha,” he had said (Vinesh was sure to win a medal). Five years later, Vinesh is once again amongst India’s top medal hopefuls in 50 kg women’s freestyle wrestling. Vinesh Phogat remains the only Indian woman wrestler to have both Commonwealth and Asian Games Gold in her kitty. However, the injuries have not left India’s wrestling contingent even this time. Reports have emerged that another of India’s medal hopeful in Tokyo, wrestler Bajrang Punia (65 kg freestyle) will take one more week to be back on the mat following his knee injury last month.
Deepika Kumari Mahato, currently the World number one in Archery, remains the flag bearer of Indian archery and one of country’s biggest medal hopefuls in Tokyo. Deepika claimed a stunning three gold medals at World Cup stage 3 in Paris on June 27. Archery veterans such as Dola Banjerjee have suggested that Deepika may win India’s first Olympic medal in Archery following her striking momentum and consistency in Paris world meet just a month before Olympics.
India’s greatest Boxer till date, six-time World Champion and London Olympics Bronze medalist MC Mary Kom has qualified for Tokyo Olympics. Along with the 38-year-old Boxing legend, 22-year-old Amit Panghal has also emerged as a top medal hopeful in Boxing. Panghal had clinched gold medals at 2018 Asian Games and 2019 Asian Championship and remains in exemplary momentum to end up on the podium in Tokyo.
Another Manipur girl, Mirabai Chanu would lift the weights in Tokyo Olympics to make India’s flag take the best possible position in front of medals’ podium. In 48 kg category, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu remains India’s biggest medal hopeful in weightlifting after winning Gold at 2017 World Championship and 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Star Indian Track and Field athlete, Neeraj Chopra, who competes in javelin throw might also make India get its first ever Olympic medal in the game. The winning distance in Rio Olympics was 90.30 meters, whereas in March 2021, Neeraj managed to set a National record of 88.07 meters while smashing his own record. In Track and Field events, all eyes will be on 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra.
PV Sindhu, arguably India’s finest Badminton player right now, would go to Tokyo to perform better than her best at Rio, where Hyderabad-hailing Badminton player had won a silver medal. With Spaniard Badminton star Carolina Marin out of Olympics due to knee injury, odds seem to be in Sindhu’s favour. Sindhu is likely to face a mighty challenge from Taiwenese Tai Tzu Ying this time.
Posted By: Mukul Sharma