Why are the mixed double events India's best medal bets at the Tokyo Olympics?
While many athletes have been touted to return from Tokyo with medals around their necks, it's mainly the mixed team events where India seems to have a better chance of earning podium finishes.
Over the years, India has managed to win just 28 medals, including two from Norman Pritchard, in their Olympics history spanning more than a century. Even though this is certainly not a great number, experts and sports fans have predicted India to put this number behind and have their best-ever Olympic campaign during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
While the likes of Amit Pangal, Vinesh Phogat, Mirabai Chanu and others are touted as the ones who will return from Tokyo with medals around their necks, it's mainly the mixed team events where India seems to have a better chance of earning podium finishes.
Shooting has time and again been reiterated as India's strongest sport before they enter Tokyo for the quadrennial event. While the likes of Saurabh Chaudhary, Elavenil Valarivan and others are expected to enter the Olympics as some of the hot medal contenders in their individual events, the newly introduced mixed team events are where the Indians have even stronger chances of clinching medals.
India is expected to field four mixed teams in shooting at the Olympics. While the pairs of Manu Bhaker-Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma-Yashaswini Deswal will be seen competing in the mixed 10m air pistol, the duo of Elavenil Valarivan-Divyansh Panwar and Apurvi Chandela-Deepak Kumar are expected to take the stage in the mixed 10m air rifle event.
If the pair of Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary has emerged as one of the most feared duos in the world of shooting with five gold medals in as many tournaments they have played together, then the other pairs too are not to be left behind. All the three remaining pairs have partnered with each other prior and have won at least one gold medal together.
A total of four Indian archers – Deepika Kumari, Atanu Das, Pravin Jadhav and Tarundeep Rai, have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics so far. While the men's trio could be a contender for a podium finish in the men's team event, Deepika Kumari, as in the previous two Olympics, will clearly start as India's best bet in the individual event. But keeping her history at the Olympics in mind, it is really hard to predict whether she will really be a force to reckon with in the individual event.
This is where the Mixed Team event comes into the picture. Being played for the first time in the Olympics, the husband-wife duo of Atanu and Deepika are expected to partner for India in this event. The pair have had some decent results since they started competing together and are ranked 13th in the world. If they are able to replicate the form they have displayed off late at Tokyo, a medal in the event could well be plausible.
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Achanta Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra, and Sutirtha Mukherjee are the four Indian paddlers who will be in action at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. While winning a medal in singles in the sport at the Olympics seems next to impossible, the Mixed doubles pair of Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra might have a slight sniff on earning a podium finish.
This is mainly because of the fact that there will only be sixteen mixed doubles teams in the fray at Tokyo. If luck plays its part and the World Number 5 Indians get a favourable draw in the first couple of rounds, the country's first Olympic medal in table tennis could well be a reality.