Honest medal prediction for India at the Tokyo Olympics
Back in April, an Olympics analyst organisation Gracenote, had predicted India would equal its combined tally of the last 12 Games to win 17 medals. But how much possible is it?
Back in April, an Olympics analyst organisation Gracenote, had predicted India would equal its combined tally of the last 12 Games to win 17 medals, including four gold at the Tokyo Olympics. It said, as per their model, India will win eight medals in shooting, four in boxing, three in wrestling and one each in archery and weightlifting. The total tally is projected to be four gold medals, five silver and eight bronze.
Before the 2016 Rio Games, the US-based company had projected India would win five medals, including a gold and four bronze. However, in reality, none of their projections came true as Indians arrived home from Rio, with two medals — a bronze and a silver which were won by the underdogs Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu, respectively.
We, at The Bridge, feel Gracenote's projection for India's medal tally this year could again be an overestimation. A total of 17 medals create pressure for athletes who could falter at the biggest sporting stage in the world. India is sending over 125 athletes to the Tokyo Olympics, and a majority of the brigade will be attending at their first Olympics. With over ten athletes aged 20 and below, it would be an immense expectation set on them to win 17 medals.
Let us plunge into the deep and try to make an honest attempt in predicting India's medal tally:
After plenty of brainstorming and studying performances and analysing consistency, we come to the conclusion that India would better its previous tally of six medals at the London Olympics and would win eight medals at the Tokyo Olympics. Here's a look:
1 Gold medal
Manu Bhaker & Saurabh Chaudhury - Shooting (Mixed Team 10m Air Pistol)
While the 15 member shooting squad will be India's strongest suit when they enter the Olympics, the question remains as to whether the shooters will perform to the best of their abilities?
The team events in the shooting are a new addition to the Olympics this time around, and India might just start the event on a very successful note. A gold medal highly seems on the card for Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhury who will compete in the Mixed Team 10m Air Pistol event. Having joined hands for the first time in the year 2019, the duo has won five gold medals in six tournaments they have competed in. While their first medal together came at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi in February 2019, the duo then went on to win three more World Cup gold medals that year – Beijing in April 2019, Munich in May 2019, Rio in August 2019. The last of their five gold medals came during the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi in March 2021. Though they missed out on a gold and settled for silver against Russia's Vitalina Batsarashkina and Artem Chernousov in the recently concluded World Cup in Croatia, they look confident ahead of Tokyo Olympics.
5 Silver medals
Saurabh Chaudhury - Shooting (Men's 10m Air Pistol)
Saurabh Chaudhury is also the favourite to win a medal at the men's shooting event. Though he was won several gold medals in the ISSF World Cups, the competition level is going to be far more intense than the World Cups in Tokyo. Saurabh will face stiff competition against South Korea's Jin Jong-Oh and Iran's Javad Foroughi in the category.
In shooting more than medal count the scores are crucial to make an analysis. Jin Jong-Oh has a World record of 594/600 in the 10m air pistol event. Interestingly, Saurabh Chaudhary has been shooting around 589. If Chaudhary can level up a bit more, he can surpass the record in Tokyo. Besides, Foroughi has been shining at the 2021 World Cups. He has now defeated Saurabh twice to claim the gold. Thus, expecting a gold would be a tough ask for Saurabh. His ability to stay calm in pressure situations, however, has yielded good results. Thus a silver seems to be in his reach.
Manu Bhaker - Shooting (Women's 10m Air Pistol)
Manu Bhaker enters Tokyo after tasting regular success in the Shooting World Cups. She won a silver medal in the 10m air pistol mixed team event along with Saurabh Chaudhary in Croatia. She also won a bronze medal as part of the Indian women's team in the 10m air pistol event, where she teamed up with Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Rahi Sarnobat to defeat the Hungarian team of Veronika Major, Miriam Jako and Sara Rahel Fabian.
Bhaker, who is a gold medalist at the 2018 World Cup, Youth Olympics and Commonwealth Games, has been selected for three events at the Olympics. Going by her form, another medal is expected from her. A silver could well be in her reach in her pet event.
Mirabai Chanu - Weightlifting (Women's 49KG)
With North Korea withdrawing from the Olympics, it was likely to be a two-way race between Chanu and the lifter representing China in the 49kg category of the Tokyo Olympics. Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, the girl from the East Imphal district of Manipur scripted history as she won the silver medal in the Women's 49kg Weightlifting event at the Tokyo Olympics.
Mirabai was the second-best weightlifter in the Games. Her personal best performance is 203 kg with which she won the 49kg gold in the National Weightlifting Championships in February 2020. China were able to field Zhihui Hou at the Olympics, whose best performances have been recorded as 211 kg, respectively.
There were possibilities that other countries would be pulling out of the games. Mirabai just had to ensure that she stays injury-free and retains her form to win a medal at the Tokyo Games and her chances of winning bronze further get lifted with real possibilities of winning silver.
Vinesh Phogat — Wrestling (Women's 53 KG)
The 2020 Tokyo Games will be the second Olympics appearance for the 26-year-old Phogat. A grappler had an anti-climactic end to her campaign at Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where she had to be stretchered off the mat during the quarterfinal owing to a career-threatening injury. While Phogat would be eager to put her Rio fate behind and clinch a medal at Tokyo in the Women's 53kg weight division, it is by no means going to be easy. Phogat would be facing challenges primarily from Sweden's Sofia Mattson, Chinese Pang Qianyu and Mayu Mukaida from Japan. Vinesh holds wins against Mattson and Qianyu. However, each of three times she faces Mukaida, the Japanese ended up beating Vinesh. The Indian who is seeded no. 1 in the competition, would avert Mukaida till the final bout. However, in the finals, the Japanese could have a upperhand on her. Therefore, silver could be expected from Vinesh, who has to punch above her weight to make it to the gold medal.
Amit Panghal — Boxing (Men's 52KG)
Amit Panghal will be looking for vengeance when he gets inside the Olympic ring in Tokyo after narrowly losing out on the gold medal at the Asian Championships in May. Panghal went down against the reigning Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan to finish second-best, something which he will look to overturn at the Games. His boxing World Cup gold last year is proof enough of his capabilities at the world stage, something which he will be expected to do at the Games as well. However, Zoirov could be the opponent to beat on his way to the gold medal. Therefore, we can expect he will finish with a silver.
Atanu Das & Deepika Kumari - Archery (Mixed team event)
All hopes will be pitted on star archers and couple Atanu Das and Deepika Kumari, when they reach Tokyo Olympics. Deepika is going to the Olympics as a world no 1, similar to 2012 when she had climbed to the pole position ahead of the London Games. However, Deepika could not live up to the expectation, making a first-round exit. Rio Games was no different as she made a last 16 exit in individual and lost to Russia in team quarterfinals.
Deepika is in the peak form of her career, attaining the No 1 ranking after winning two individual World Cup gold medals this year. Deepika and her husband Atanu Das are India''s best Olympic medal hope in the mixed pair competition. They are now doubling up as "coach-mentor" as they chase India''s elusive dream of winning the first-ever Olympic medal in archery.
Bajrang Punia — Wrestling (Men's 65KG)
Bajrang Punia, wrestling in the 65kg category, is seeded second behind Russia's world champion Gadhzimurad Rashidov, feels the seeding will play an important role at the Tokyo Olympics. Besides, Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan, Ismail Muszukajev of Hungary, and Takuto Otoguro of Japan are seeded 3rd, 4th, and 5th in his category, which makes it a highly-competitive weight division.
As far as the seedings are concerned, Bajrang will evade Rashidov till the final. Though the Kazakh had defeated Bajrang in Worlds semifinal, the Indian had the last laugh when they met for the last time at the Ali Aliyev tournament in June. Bajrang's biggest threat would still be Otoguro and will try to evade the Japanese in the draw. Bajrang is one of the finest wrestlers in his category, and his opponents will also be wanting to evade him. It would be difficult to predict if he can bring the gold home. However, a medal seems pretty much on the card for him.