In less than a year’s time, all eyes will be on Tokyo, which will be hosting the world’s grandest sporting event, the Olympics. With the countdown clock ticking for the quadrennial sporting extravaganza, Indians are once again weaving big dreams and expectations around our athletes who are raring to raise our glory flag at the world’s grandest sporting stage. On a closer look, 64 Indian athletes, including two teams, have so far qualified for Tokyo 2020, where India will be expectedly aiming to send over 100 athletes as the part of the contingent.
So far, with 28 medals in 31 editions of the summer games, the Indian contingent has set sights on higher goals. We are harbouring a collective attitude of optimism and striving to enhance our medal haul. A glimpse of such optimism could be seen in the speech of our former Sports Minister and Olympics silver medallist shooter Col Rajyavardhan Rathore, who in his remarks at the Lok Sabha mentioned that India should aim to take its medal tally to 100 by the 2032 summer games.
So far, the London Olympics in 2012 has proven to be India’s best show at the Games with our athletes raking up six medals. However, the hopes of excelling from that position were only battered with just two medals coming up after four years of wait. Here’s a look at the athletes and their performances who have qualified for Tokyo Olympics.
Although the Indian men recurve archers couldn’t make it to the Rio 2016 Games, they staged an enthralling performance at the Archery World Championships 2019 in June to seal the berth at the Olympics 2020. The trio comprising Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai, and Praveen Jadhav broke into the Quarterfinals of the tournament which earned them the berth at Tokyo after a 5-1 win over Norway and 5-3 over Canada.
There was no stopping the trio as they went on to reach the final of the World Archery Championships for the first time since 2005 after they shocked the Netherlands in the semifinals. Against the Dutch team, they staged a comeback after trailing and won 29-28 in the shoot-off for an overall score of 5-4. In the final, they lost to China 2-6 yet returned with a silver medal in the competition.
This was also the second time ever that the men’s recurve team reached the World Championships final. Further, the men’s team, who had slumped to number 17 in rankings from being number one in May 2011, had also surprised everyone by sealing the Olympic quota place ahead of the fancied women’s team.
Deepika Kumari won gold in the women’s recurve event at the Olympic qualifying Asian Archery event in Bangkok last month, beating compatriot Ankita Bhakat 6-0 in an all-Indian final. With three individual Olympic quotas for Tokyo 2020 on offer at this event, Deepika sealed the Olympic quota place in women’s recurve individual category.
In September, Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat became the first India wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after a commanding 8-2 win over reigning Olympic silver medallist Sarah Hildebrandt at the World Wrestling Championships in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan. She went on to bag the bronze medal at the event by outclassing Greece’s Maria Prevolaraki 4-1.
After Vinesh, it was India’s ace wrestler Bajrang Punia who became the second wrestler to win an Olympics berth as he win a bronze medal at the World Wrestling Championships. Shrugging off his controversial semifinal defeat, Bajrang Puniaheld off a spirited challenge from Mongloia’s Tulga Tumur Ochir to bag his third World Championship medal. Bajrang had lost to Kazakh wrestler Daulet Niyazbekov in the semifinal under controversial circumstances.
Ravi Kumar Dahiya (57kg) emerged as an unlikely hero for India showing remarkable composure while battling some of toughest opponents in a challenging category, which included an European champion and another a world number three wrestler. Dahiya claimed a bronze medal on his debut World Championships by stunning Asian Champion Reza Atri Nagarchi of Iran. Dahiya defeated his fancied rival 6-3 in the bronze medal bout and also clinched a berth at the Olympics.
Twenty-year-old Deepak Punia was the last Indian wresler to qualify for the Olympics. He is the newest sensation in Indian wrestling, who after winning the gold medal in World Junior Wrestling Championship, became the only Indian wrestler to have reached the final of the 2019 World Championships. However, he was forced to pull out of the title clash due to injuries and had to settle for a silver medal instead. Deepak picked up an injury on his left leg and eye in his first-round fight which rendered him unable to compete in the final of the men’s freestyle 86kg event against Hasan Yazdanichara of Iran.
20km race walking
In March, national record holder Kolothum Thodi Irfan became the first Indian from athletics to qualify for the 2020 Olympics after he finished fourth in the 20 km event of the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan.
The 29-year-old clocked 1 hour 20 minutes and 57 seconds to better the Tokyo Olympics qualification standard of 1 hour 21 minutes. He is so far the only Indian from athletics to have qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Irfan, who has a personal best as well as a national record of 1:20:21 also qualified for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar as he bettered the qualifying mark of 1:22:30.
Bhawna Jat became the second Indian and first woman to qualify for 20km racewalking from India for Tokyo Olympics 2020 clocking a new National Record of 1:29.54 secs. Bhawana reached this mark in the 7th national racewalking championship 2020 being held in Ranchi. Her effort was a massive improvement on her personal best of 1:38.30, set in October last year.
4x400m mixed team relay
India had something to cheer about on Day 2 of the World Athletics Championships as the mixed relay team qualified for the final of the 4x400m by finishing third in the second heat of the semi-finals in Doha. The team of Muhammed Anas, Vismaya, Krishna Mathew and Noah Nirmal finished behind Poland and Brazil with a time of 3:16.14s to reach the final. The third-place finish also saw the Indian team secure their berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a result. Despite finishing with a seasonal best timing of 3:15.77 seconds, the Indian team finished 7th, just ahead of Brazil in the final of the 4x400m mixed relay final.
India’s Avinash Sable sealed his berth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by clocking a national record timing of 8:21:37 in the men’s 3000m steeplechase final at the World Athletics Championships 2019.The Olympic qualification mark had been set at 8:22:00 and the 25-year-old managed to qualify for the Olympics with a record timing, his second national record in three days, which was 0.63s quicker than the alloted mark. He also bettered his own national record of 8:25.23 which he clocked during the first round heats.
One of India’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal hopeful made a successful recovery and in his first competitive event, he threw 87.86 metres to achieve Tokyo 2020 qualification at the Athletics Central North East Meeting held on the Kenneth McArthur Stadium in South Africa. Owing to his elbow soreness the star javelin thrower couldn’t compete since the Asian Games in 2018 where he won the gold medal.
India’s shooting prowess came to the fore after Rathore won the silver medal in the double trap at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The performance was further complemented when Abhinav Bindra won the first-ever and the only individual gold medal at the 2008 Games. Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang won silver and bronze respectively in London 2012. Following their footsteps, a fresh crop of Indian shooters have made India proud recently with 15 individual quotas already booked for the Olympics.
10 M Air Rifle (Women’s)
Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela became the first and second Indian shooters to secure quotas at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by winning a silver and finishing fourth respectively in the women’s 10m air rifle event of the ISSF World Championship in April.
Moudgil finished second behind Korean Hana Im (251.1) and ahead of bronze-medallist Eunhea Jung (228.0), from Korea as well. She shot a total of 248.4 in the eight-women final to open the Indian senior squad’s medal account in the prestigious tournament.
While Chandela aggregated 207 to finish fourth, she still made the cut since a country could avail two Olympic quota places in this event.
10 M Air Pistol (Men’s)
In February, teenager Saurabh Chaudhary smashed the world record to win gold in the ISSF World Cup and secured Olympic quota in shooting. Appearing in his maiden senior World Cup, the 16-year-old claimed the top honours at the season-opening ISSF event. The Asian Games and Youth Olympics gold medallist ended the event with a total score of 245.
In April, Abhishek Verma won gold in the 10m Air Pistol final at the ISSF World Cup in Beijing. In doing so, he sealed a quota place for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Verma finished on the top step of the podium with 242.7 points. He displayed his class in what was only his first ISSF World Cup final.
10 M Air Rifle (Men’s)
Seventeen-year-old teenager Divyansh Singh Panwar in April secured Olympic quota place in shooting by winning a silver in the ISSF World Cup in Beijing. In what was only his second senior competition, Divyansh shot a total of 249.0 to finish a creditable second position and he missed out on the gold medal by just 0.4 points.
Indian shooter Deepak Kumar celebrated his birthday by booking a place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after claiming the bronze medal at the 14th Asian Championship, the final Olympic Qualification Tournament, being held in Doha. Deepak qualified for the final after finishing third in the qualification round with a score of 626.8. In the final, with three Chinese shooters in the running, all the 32-year-old Indian had to do was ensure that he earned one of the three quotas up for grabs for the five contestants (other than the Chinese).
50 M Rifle 3 Position (Men’s)
Sanjeev Rajput secured Olympic berth with a silver medal in the men’s 50m rifle 3 position at the ISSF World Cup in Rio De Janeiro. Rajput shot 462.0 in the final and finished only second behind Croatia’s Petar Gorsa who shot 462.2. Had the Haryana native Rajput won gold this year, it could have been his second World Cup gold after 2011.
18-year-old Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar won the bronze medal and earned a quota for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the finals of the 50m rifle 3P event at the Asian Shooting Championships in Doha, Qatar. Aishwary shot a total of 449.1, which earned him the third position, behind Korea’s Jonghhyum Kim and China’s Zhonghao Zhao.
Indian shooters Angad Veer Singh Bajwa and Mairaj Ahmad Khan earned Olympics Tokyo 2020 quotas as they won gold and silver, respectively in the skeet event of Asian Shooting Championships in Doha. While Angad shot 56 in the final, Mairaj also finished shooting 56. They both were engaged in a shoot-off to clinch the top honours at the tournament, where Angad won the shoot-off 6-5.
25 m Pistol (Women’s)
Rahi Sarnobat booked an Olympic berth for India with a gold in women’s 25m pistol event at the ISSF World Cup in Munich. In 2012, Rahi became the first Indian shooter to qualify for the 25 m pistol event at the Olympics, where she could only finish 19th. Rahi, who won a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup 2013 in Changwon, shot a total of 37 to claim the top honours.
On the other hand, Chinki Yadav earned another quota in the same event at the Asian Shooting Championship as she finished sixth in the finals. In qualification, she shot an exceptional 296 to reach a total of 588 and made it to the Final. She came behind Thailand’s Naphaswan Yangpainboon, who shot 590 to finish at the top.T he 21-yr-old daughter of an electrician from Bhopal, Chinki, won the quota for India as four shooters out of eight in Final already had quota and Chinki was among rest four finalists eligible for quota.
10 M Air Pistol (Women’s)
Teenager Manu Bhaker qualified for the Olympics after she narrowly missed a medal by 0.1 points in the shooting World Cup in Munich.
Despite shooting a 10.3, the best among the four shooters at the halfway stage of the final, Manu bowed out as she was overtaken by the slender margin by Anna Korakaki of Greece. Manu had an exceptional 2018, with a gold and silver at the Youth Olympics gold at the Commonwealth Games and two gold medals at the 2018 ISSF World Cup.
An authoritative Yashaswini Singh Deswal secured an Olympic quota in shooting, upstaging the women’s 10m air pistol’s numero uno shooter Olena Kostevych of Ukraine for gold in the ISSF World Cup, Rio De Janeiro. The 22-year-old former junior world champion on Saturday recorded 236.7 in the eight-woman final of the season’s fourth ISSF World Cup for pistol and rifle shooters.
50 M Rifle 3 Position (Women’s)
Tejaswini Sawant secured shooting quota for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after she qualified for the finals of women’s 50m Rifle 3 Position event at the Asian Shooting Championship in Doha, Qatar. Daughter of an officer in Indian Navy, Tejaswini at the 2006, 2010, and 2018 Commonwealth Games, won three gold medals, three silver medals and one bronze medal for the country. She has also won one World Cup bronze in 2009 and one World Championship gold in 2010 but she has never represented India at the Olympics yet. At the Asian Championships, there were three Olympic quotas on offer. With five of the eight finalists in the event having already booked a spot in Tokyo, Tejaswini bagged one of the quotas up for grabs in Doha. In the qualification round, the 39-year-old pro scored 1171-58x to finish 5th.
In Tokyo 2020 Olympics, India will field 15 shooters, it’s highest-ever. Till now, India had sent a maximum of 12 shooters at the Olympics, which came during the Rio Games in 2012.
On November 2, the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams ensured their berth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with their respective victories at the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2019. Both of Indian men’s and women’s hockey team thwarted their opportunity to directly seal the Olympics berth by emerging champions at the Asian Games 208 in Jakarta. While the men’s team were defeated in the semifinal, the women’s team reached the summit clash but settled with silver in the final as they went down against Japan.
Both the teams had to take the roundabout playing the FIH Series Finals where the men and women in blue emerged champions. This directly earned them a chance to play the two-match decider of FIH Olympic Qualifiers. Indian men’s hockey team (Ranked 5 in the World), lead by Captain Manpreet Singh, played a lowly ranked Russia (Ranked 22 in the world), in their home turf at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. In the first-leg, they defeated Russia 4-2 and in the second leg, it was a goal shower of 7-1, taking the total goal aggregate in India’s favour to 11-3.
The women’s team, ranked 9th in the world, faced a tricky challenge against USA (ranked 13th). Though the Indian Eves showcased dominance in the first-leg match, winning the tie 5-1, they narrowly escaped the American horror in the second tie where the visitors had sealed four goals within 28 minutes of the proceedings, which took the goal aggregate to 5-5. India though crawled down under pressure, Captain Rani Rampal’s brilliant strike in the 48th minute of the match saw India finish the match 1-4. However, with the goal aggregate standing turning up in Rani & Co’s favour by 6-5, the Indian women’s managed to seal a spot at the Olympics. This is for the first time the Indian women’s hockey team will be making back-to-back appearances at the Olympics.