After Olympics, India's next generation of athletes are here to shine at upcoming tournaments
With the Paris Olympics cycle beginning, India has started curating a young squad for upcoming tournaments, giving them the much-needed platform to shine.
It may have been delayed by a year but the Tokyo Olympics cycle has dwindled to an end finally and the hue and cry are beginning to recede to the background. The limelight is slowly but surely training away from our beloved Olympic-returned stars and focussing on a new brood of players - a motley mix of promising teenagers, eager to shine as the Paris Olympics cycle has quietly begun. In a deliberate attempt to let the young guns shine and take centre stage, India has been fielding a young but talented squad for key tournaments like the World Championships, Sudirman Cup, Thomas and Uber Cup's - across a string of sports, ranging from archery, badminton, boxing to wrestling.
With the Olympics storm now in the past, the dust has settled to reveal a troop of players who are extremely young and have a bright future ahead, especially with the 2024 Paris Olympics merely three years away. While Olympic medallists like Neeraj Chopra, PV Sindhu have taken time off to recover and get ready for the season after their success at the Tokyo Olympics, the stage has been kept vacant for other Indian stars to come take the spot and hopefully, steer India towards medal glory in the upcoming list of events they will be taking part in.
Handing over reins as it would seem, the young brigade of players are ready to make heads turn for India as they compete in a slew of tournaments in the coming months. India's sporting dimension is at an all-time ripe side with a lot of potent talent brewing and it will be quite the sight to see new faces at familiar events take their first big steps and earn more exposure and international experience, that will come handy in this new Olympic cycle, ahead of Paris.
Let's take a look at the young squads India has curated for a few sports:
Archery - Gaining a lot of traction in the previous months and also at the Tokyo Olympics, India's time to shine at archery is here to stay and the incredibly young squad has a lot of responsibility on their shoulders as they train their bow and arrow and aim for glory. With an average of 21.16 of the Indian squad for archery who are currently competing at the Archery World Championships in Yankton, it speaks volumes about the young blood in the mix. While there are veterans like Abhishek Verma and Jyothi Surekha Vennam to inspire and lead the youngsters, a lot of promise has been shown by the likes of Komalika Bari, Ridhi Phor, Ankita Bhakat, Muskan Kirar, Priya Gurjar and on the men's side, in the recurve as well as the compound, there is Aditya Chaudhary, Parth Salunke and Atul Verma, Sangam Singh Bisla and Rishab Yadav.
So far, at the Archery World Championships, India has already bagged two silver medals, winning the Compound Mixed Team event (Jyothi Vennam and Abhishek Verma) while the Compound Women's Team comprising Jyothi, Muskan and Priya also took home the silver. There may be more medals on the horizon as recurve and individual events remaining.
Badminton - While the popular opinion is that there is a lack of depth in Indian badminton at the international level especially after PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, the following months will become crucial in proving that opinion wrong. PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have opted out of the mixed team championship of Sudirman Cup that is due to begin from 26th September in Vantaa, Finland - this leaves the onus a squad that is new and relatively inexperienced. In the 10-member squad that has gone to the Scandinavian nation for the Sudirman Cup, 6 players are debutants at the event. In the women's side, there is Malvika Bansod, Tanisha Crasto, Rutaparna Panda, Aditi Bhatt while MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila from the men's side, will be playing for the first time in this prestigious event.
The veterans in the squad include former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth, 2019 World Championships bronze medallist Sai Praneeth and seasoned women's doubles duo of Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy. With a majority of debutants and India being placed in a tough draw with China, Thailand and Finland - it will not be easy for this young squad but it is exciting to see how the youngsters take to the challenges.
Boxing - The Boxing Men's World Championships are slated for next month and even there, there are new faces galore who will take stage and hope to medal for India and continue their legacy in men's boxing. The crowd of pugilists is young but fierce and talented and include Govind Sahani (48kg), Deepak Kumar (51kg), Akash (54kg), Rohit Mor (57kg) Varinder Singh (60kg), Nishant Dev (71kg) and Sachin Kumar (80kg), among many other new names. The only familiar face will be that of veteran Shiva Thapa who will take part in the 63.5 kg.
Wrestling - With the Wrestling World Championships also around the corner, India won't be seeing its star-studded list of Vinesh Phogat or Bajrang Punia in the squad, who are all giving the event a skip. Instead, youngsters Hanny Kumari, Anshu Malik, Pooja Jatt, Sandeep Mann, Ritu Malik and Shubham Kaushik will be taking India's case forward at the prestigious event. The time has finally come for these motley mix of youngsters to take the lead and take more responsibility as they play at grand stages like this, eager to claim glory.