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5 Indian athletes who are primed for a blockbuster 2020

5 Indian athletes who are primed for a blockbuster 2020

The Bridge Desk

Published: 7 Jan 2020 9:55 AM GMT

With the advent of the new decade, the excitement around Indian sports has increased by leaps. 2020, of course, is the Olympic year. And like every Olympic year, the buzz surrounding the Indian athletes is at an all-time high.

While Rio 2016 turned out to be quite disappointing for India, the expectations from Tokyo are mammoth. Pundits and administrators are expecting the number of medals to be in double digits, fans are hoping for more.

Even Sports Minister Kirren Rijiju is hoping for a best-ever medal haul from the country's athletes in the Tokyo Olympics. Here we take a look at 5 athletes who are primed for a blockbuster 2020.

#5 Amit Panghal

Amit Panghal

In a year that saw a lot of drama and a lot of history-making in Indian boxing, it was the pint-sized pugilist Amit Panghal who dominated the scene.

The 24-year-old opened his campaign for the year with a gold medal at the Strandja Memorial, one of Europe’s oldest and most competitive tournaments. That's where his gold rush began although it was his last competition in the 49kg category.

In March, Panghal shifted to 52kg category, a move that even he himself was not too sure about. However, once inside the ring, he was quick to establish his supremacy in the new category. Bagging a gold at the Asian Championships in April, Panghal followed it up with a breathtaking performance at the World Championships in September.

Panghal gave India a watershed moment by becoming the country's first-ever boxer to win a silver medal at the AIBA World Boxing Championships.

Having asserted his authority on the world stage, Panghal is confident of bagging the gold in Tokyo.

#4 PV Sindhu

PV Sindhu

2019 was nothing less than a rollercoaster ride for PV Sindhu, India's top-ranked shuttler. While on one hand, she became the World Champion in August, on the other, the 24-year-old got eliminated in the initial stages of several tournaments.

She did play in the finals of Indonesia Open and got till the semifinals twice at India Open and Singapore Open. But Sindhu's form, especially, after the historic World Championships feat, has seen a steep decline and naturally, it has been a cause for worry among badminton fans in India.

Even at the BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, she failed to defend her title, losing her first two matches. Given her recent slump, many have raised doubts on whether she will be able to match her Rio efforts in Tokyo.

However, it must be kept in mind that Sindhu is a big-tournament player who has a knack of shining at the biggest stages. Not only Olympics, the World No. 6 will also be looking to reassert her authority in the World Tour and climb up the rankings.

With proper rest and preparation, there is no reason to think that she will not have a blockbuster year ahead.

#3 Saurabh Chaudhary

Over the years, Indian shooting has produced many gems but 17-year-old Saurabh Chaudhary is cut from another cloth. The pistol shooter, whose pet event is 10m air pistol, has already achieved feats that kids of his age cannot even dream of.

In a sport that primarily demands focus and mental strength, the teenager has shown wisdom and tenacity beyond his age. He is a serial winner, and a serial world record breaker at that.

Saurabh shot to the limelight for the first time when he became India's youngest-ever gold medallist at the Asian Games in 2018. Few months on, he had added junior world title and a Youth Olympics gold to that tally.

While 2018 was about arriving at the world stage, 2019 was about establishing himself and stamping his domination there. Moving to the senior circuit, Saurabh's first test was the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi. Well, he aced it with a then-world record in the finals, also winning an Olympic quota. He then won the mixed pair event alongside Manu Bhaker.


He finished on top of the podium again at the Munich World Cup, rewriting his own world record and then alongside Manu, dominated in the mixed event. He went on to win another bronze in the individual event of the Rio de Janeiro World Cup and then won a fourth World Cup gold in the mixed event.

While he is just 17, the expectations on this young fellow are probably more than on any other athlete. But the way he has excelled so far, an Olympic medal is not far and 2020 could be his year.

#2 Vinesh Phogat

A freak knee injury cut had short her Olympic dream back in 2016. She had tears in eyes as she was stretchered off the mat. But since then, Vinesh Phogat has come a long way.

Having shifted to 53kg towards the start of 2019, Vinesh took some time to find her groove. But once she did, the 25-year-old grappler went on to win three back-to-back gold in international meets ahead of the World Championships.


Her finest hour, however, came at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan where she bagged a bronze, thus becoming the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. With Sakshi Malik struggling, all hopes of a Tokyo medal will rest on the Commonwealth and Asian champion's shoulders.

In a bid to keep fit before the Olympics, Vinesh is expected to participate only in select events. The World No. 2 will be participating in the Ranking Series in Rome from January 15 to 18 and is also supposed to take part in the Asian Championships scheduled in New Delhi in February.

This could be the year when Vinesh finally realises her life-long dream of winning an Olympic medal — the odds are in her favour, all she needs to do is keep fit.

#1 Mirabai Chanu

Mirabai Chanu became the heart of the nation heading into Rio Olympics aged just 21. Having ascended through the ranks rapidly, she was favoured to finish on the podium at the Games. However, the pressure got to her and she could not finish the event as she failed to lift the weight in any of her three attempts in clean & jerk section.

It was a failure that even Mirabai had not fathomed, and by her own admission, depression hit her. Thoughts of quitting the sport altogether crossed her mind several times. However, a year later, she would go on to become the World Champion with a. record lift. Mirabai has constantly improved her performances through 2019 as she recovered from a back injury.


She lifted a total of 199kg at the Asian Championships in April to miss the bronze medal by a whisker. Her best performance, though, came at the World Championship in September, when she breached the 200kg mark by lifting her personal best of 201kg but yet, finished fourth. She did win gold at the Qatar International Cup to end the year.

The Manipur-based lifter is one of the favourites to win a medal at the Tokyo Games. There are only a few lifters who can lift more than Mirabai in her category on their best days and three of them are from China. The positive thing though is that only one of the three Chinese lifters will compete at the Olympics as a nation can send no more than one athlete each per weight category.

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