With qualifications being finalised and slots being filled, several Indian sportspersons have already made it to their respective events at the Tokyo Olympics to be held later this year. Some top stars however are yet to do so owing to delayed qualification processes. There are several debutants and newbies all vying for a place on the podium owing to their performance and confidence built up over the past few years in international tournaments.
We take a look at the best medal hopefuls in various sports in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2021.
Weightlifting - Saikhom Mirabai Chanu
A gold medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, she has also had her fair share of injury problems which forced her to miss out on the Asian and World Championships. She has been among the top contenders of the 49kg event in the past few years and is currently ranked 4th overall. In 2017, the 23-year-old weightlifter became the world champion when she won the 48kg category at the World Weightlifting Championships held in the US. Her consistency has been evident apart from the injuries that have caused her to set aside her training for a while. Regardless of that, she has the best chance by far of bringing home India's first-ever Gold Medal in weightlifting.
Archery — Atanu Das/Deepika Kumari
The dream archery couple has also been among the top-ranked world archers in their respective singles categories over the past decade. Deepika Kumari will be attending her third Olympic Games while it will be the second one for Atanu Das. Their major achievement together was at the Bangkok Asian Archery Championships 2019 when they won a bronze in the mixed team event. Given their combination of experience and teamwork that has flourished over the past year, the mixed team duo shall are genuine contenders at the Tokyo Olympics this year to bring home India's first medal in archery.
The opportunity to win a medal after 41 years is a chance too good to miss for the national Hockey team. It seems like just yesterday when they were criticised for not qualifying for the 2008 London Olympics. Since then there has been a major revelation in the form and performance of players both in international leagues and friendly fixtures. In the FIH Pro League that was held prior to Covid 19, India had beaten Belgium 2-1 and drew 2-2 with Australia. Both these performances might not account for a medal, but they definitely give the confidence about performances required at the big stage. Currently, the team has been playing friendlies across Europe and with Argentina, something that will definitely help them get the necessary preparation in before the Olympics begin. The meteoric rise of Hockey India from rank 12 over a decade ago to rank 4 is something that can play out in their favour in Tokyo.
Much has been said about them in their individual capacity. This might sound extremely repetitive, but without putting too much pressure and constant emphasis on both Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary, the chances of them winning the gold in their respective individual events is extremely high. Both of them have tasted success at the ISSF World Cups being held over the past few years along with the youth Olympics. Adding on the mixed doubles event, and it makes for a great combination of shooters who have had the world at their feet for the past few years.
Boxing — Amit Phangal
In the past few years, Amit Panghal has been one of the shining lights for men's boxing in India. He broke all expectations as a 22-year-old when he won a bronze medal at the Asian Amateur Boxing Championships in 2017. This propelled him further onto the world stage where he also won Gold medals at the Asian Games and Asian Boxing Championships. What makes him a strong contender is his performances on the world stage when he won silver in the 2019 AIBA Boxing Championships, thereby becoming the first Indian to do so. It is truly a moment that puts him in the reckoning in the 52kg category at the Olympics given that he has only a few international tournaments under his belt in relative comparison to his foreign opponents at the Olympics.
Wrestling — Bajrang Punia
The turn of the year has once again reinstated Bajrang Punia as a firm medal favourite for the upcoming men wrestling event at the Olympics. He won the 65kg freestyle event in Rome that also included a phenomenal comeback in the final during the last 30 seconds. This was also the second time he won the gold at the Rome Ranking Series tournament. Over the course of his career(keeping aside national tournaments) Bajrang Punia has won a silver and two bronze medals at the World Championships, a gold and a silver in both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and have dominated the Asian Wrestling Championships. More importantly, he is also world number 1 as of today in the 65kg category owing to his performances in the Rome Ranking Series. All these factors have combined to give Bajrang a major shot at winning a medal in Tokyo with several of his previous opponents facing him again at Tokyo.
Athletics — Neeraj Chopra
Another of the athletes from India who has been in the limelight for the past few years, Neeraj Chopra has a major stake in claiming a medal this year. The former under 20 world champion threw a record 86.48m throw to make his name a few years back in the Junior World Championships. Since then, despite injuries hampering his progress, he has managed to come back and average a throw range between 85-88m at the NIS in the past year during his training. This should see him through to the top given that he has maintained his consistency since his comeback from an injury last year.
Badminton — PV Sindhu
One more shot at winning the coveted Gold Medal is all that PV Sindhu needs. It has been 5 years since the fateful match against Carolina Marin that went down to the wire in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Since then, PV Sidhu has had her fair share of ups and downs but maintained her ranking and form across various BWF tournaments. While there are about two months left for qualification, PV Sindhu will be aiming to nail her place down in the next few weeks in order to fully focus on ousting her competitors in the single women's category of Badminton.