Will India win its first Olympics medal in athletics in Tokyo?
India has never won an athletics medal at the Olympics, and expecting the country to win one this time around is surely a long shot.
After being postponed by almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics is now just a little over three months away. Athletes all across the globe are sweating it out in their respective practice sessions with the sole aim of bringing laurels to their country from Tokyo, and the Indian athletes are no different.
Over the years, India has won a total of 28 medals in the Olympics. Six of these 28 medals came during the 2012 London Games – the country's best-ever show at the Olympics. But, with the kind of potential the current crop of athletes has shown, Indian fans are expecting a double-digit medal tally for the country for the first time ever in the history of the Olympics.
While shooting remains India's main suite to propel their medal tally to double digits, the track and field athletes from the country seems assured to win India's first-ever athletics medal in the history of the Olympics at Tokyo.
Why India will win its first-ever athletics medal at Tokyo Olympics?
India has never won an athletics medal at the Olympics, and expecting the country to win one this time around is surely a long shot. But, with the kind of form the Indian track and field athletes have shown in the past couple of months, it is hard to ignore the possibility of a first-ever medal in athletics for the country.
Three names stand out when one talks about the possibility of an athletics medal for India at Tokyo – Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable and Murali Sreeshankar.
A javelin thrower from the city of Panipat, Neeraj Chopra shot to fame by setting a U-20 world record during the 2016 IAAF U-20 World Championships at Poland. He has since been on an ever-improving spree clinching gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games in the same year.
The 23 year Chopra set a new National record when he threw the javelin to a distance of 88.07m at the third leg of Indian Grand Prix held in Patiala last month. Mind you, this throw would have earned him a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Chopra's 88.07m is by far the best ever javelin throw recorded in this sporting season so far. He is followed by Germany's Johannes Vetter and Belarus' Pavel Mialeshka who threw 87.27m and 83.85m respectively.
If Neeraj Chopra can continue his form and momentum and consistently touch the 90m distance till the time Olympics are here, he might well be the first person to win an athletics medal for India at the Olympics.
A 3000m steeplechaser from the Beed district of Maharashtra, Avinash Sable is currently at the peak of his powers. In the recently concluded Federation Cup Senior National Athletics Championships in Patiala, Sable set a new national record with a timing of 8:20.20.
With this fantastic timing on the clock, Sable is the quickest in the world this season so far. He is followed by the Australian Ben Buckingham and Kenya's Amos Serem with timings of 8:27.38 and 8:30.20 respectively.
Though Sable's timings are a far cry from the usual medal winning timings at the Olympics, one thing the 26 year old has always shown is his hunger for improvement. If he manages to clock at least 5-6 seconds less from his personal best, Avinash Sable might be in with a real chance for a podium finish at Tokyo.
Born in the year 1999, Murali Sreeshankar is a long jumper from the state of Kerala. The 22-year-old set a new national record jumping a distance of 8.26m at the Federation Cup Senior National Athletics Championships in Patiala last month.
Sreeshankar is currently tied with South Africa's Cheswill Johnson and Steffin McCarter of the USA for this season's best-ever jump in the world.
Sreeshankar's national record jump is a much improved leap from his previous best of 8.20m and also helped him in earning a direct Olympic qualification. Even though Sreeshankar himself agrees that expecting a medal from him at the Tokyo Olympics might not be a really good idea, he could well be within a striking distance of an Olympic medal if he improves his national record further by a couple of centimetres.