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Home Tokyo 2020 Not the Olympics | Day 15: Punia & Panghal are hot favourites...

Not the Olympics | Day 15: Punia & Panghal are hot favourites for medals

Four months after the International Olympic Committee and officials in Japan postponed the Games amid soaring coronavirus infection rates and lockdowns across the world, uncertainty prevails. The unpredictable nature of the virus is making it impossible for officials to say definitively that the Games will happen or, if they do, what they might look like. Though we are missing the fervour of the quadrennial event, we are soaked in the Olympic spirit. For the next two weeks, we will be writing a series of article with the title “What if Olympic Happened”, where we will hypothetically discuss the day-wise performances of the Indian athletes, which were actually scheduled in the Olympics 2020 roster. 

Day 15: 7 August 2020

Today would have been the fifteenth day at the Olympics and India could have been a part of 11 title matches.

Athletics

Athletics is, without doubt, one of the most significant events of the Olympics. On Day 15 of the games, the following medal matches were supposed to be held:

Men’s Javelin Throw Final – Neeraj Chopra, Shivpal Singh

Men’s 1500m Final – Jinson Johnson, Ajay Kumar Saroj

Women’s 4 x 400m Relay Final – Hima Das, Vismaya VK, Poovamma, Jisna Mathew, Sarita Gayakwad.

Men’s 4 x 400m Relay Final – Anas, Dharun Ayyasamy, Arokia Rajiv, Noah Nirmal, Amoj Jacob

One of the anticipating events for Indian to watch is javelin throw, where two Indians – Neeraj and Shivpal – have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Both are consistent athletes to throw 80m above but the question is can Neeraj make that big leap? Can he go beyond 90m? From the day Neeraj set a new record of 88.06 at Asian Games, Indian sports lovers have been waiting to see him go beyond 90m. Neeraj is a top-6 javelin thrower among the world right now and he is definitely not a flash-in-the-pan winner. From the day he won the junior world title, he is been consistent and focused. Two Germans are the top of the world – Andreas Hofmann and Johannes Vetter – having personal bests of 92.06 and 94.44, respectively. And there is Magnes Kirt from Estonia who recently crossed 90m mark in World Championships 2019. Finally, Chao-Tsun Cheng from Chinese Taipei (Neeraj defeated him Asian Games) who has a personal best of 91.36m in 2017 but hasn’t crossed 90m mark since then. Though, Thomas Rohler, the current Olympic champion is not as his best, he also capable enough to throw above 90m. These six throwers will be going in as a medal favourites in Tokyo and it is 50-50 chance for Neeraj in Tokyo but his chances to win a medal is only going to get higher with each Olympics.

Jinson Johnson who now solely concentrating in 1500 m, has to gap 0.2 seconds yet to qualify for Tokyo Olympics. Jinson is a constant name you hear of recently, a man who breaks his own records in every race he participates. His current personal best and national record timing is 3:35.24 while standard qualifying time to Olympics is 3:35.00. But either way, Jinson have a high chance to qualify considering his rankings. Jinson was eliminated in the heats itself in World Championships, he will look to make finals in Olympics least.

Both the men’s and women’s relay teams would try to finish as a finalist, though women team would like to go one step ahead and try for an elusive medal.

Chances of winning medal: 50%

Graphical representation
Graphical representation

Boxing

Nine Indian boxers have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, making this India’s biggest-ever boxing contingent at the quadrennial event. Day 15 of the Games, would have seen the following medal events:

Men’s Fly (48-52kg) Final – Amit Panghal

Men’s Middle (69-75kg) Final – Ashish Kumar

Women’s Fly (48-51kg) Final – Mary Kom

Women’s Welter (64-69kg) Final – Lovlina Borgohain

Three out of four events which were scheduled today are considered to be a medal chance for India. Though Amit goes in as clear favourite for gold, other two goes in as a medal contenders and may not be gold. From 2018, Asian Games – Amit is in great form. Winning Asian games gold 2018, Asian Championships 2019 gold, World Championship 2019 silver and rating to career-high of World No.1. Amit is one to beat for other boxers in the Olympics. If India is expecting to win double-digit medals than athletes who are in top-10, top-5 close to world best, need to step up. One among that is Lovlina. As of March 2020, she is ranked third in the world in the 69 kg weight category and has become the first woman from Assam to qualify for the Olympics. Two consecutive medals in world championships make us believe she can win a medal in Olympics. Last but not least, five-time world champion Mary Kom will try for one last time to win the Olympic gold. Aged 37 now, Mary would be turning 38 during Tokyo 2021, that will be a huge thing to consider. How is Mary going to tackle young and fast athletes? So far she has proved, she is still one of the best boxers in her weight category. Mary usually competes at 48kg weight category and she shifts to flyweight which is 51 kg mostly during Olympic preparing since – 51kg is the starting weight category for Olympics. Though she is not as dominant as in 51kg as she was in 48kg, Mary’s solid technique, experience and attitude put her well above the rest. Mary’s tactics should be being focused and staying fit for the Tokyo Olympics.

Chances of winning a medal – 95%

Wrestling

Along with shooting, wrestling has been one of India’s most productive sporting disciplines at the Olympics, accounting for as many as five medals. While India is yet to finalize its wrestling contingent for Tokyo, Indian fans can expect at least four contenders at next year’s Games. On day 15, the following bouts were lined up:

Men’s Freestyle 65 kg Repechage/finals/bronze medal matches – Bajrang Punia

Women’s Freestyle 50 kg Repechage/finals/bronze medal – Nirmala Devi/Seema Bisla

Men’s Freestyle 97 kg Repechage/finals/bronze medal – Satyawart Kadian

One of India’s biggest medal hope in wrestling, Bajrang Punia would have been in the action. His preparation for the Olympics started with flying colours when he defeated one after another and won gold medals in ranking series, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. His first setback came in 2018 World Championships when he lost in the finals to Japan’s Takuto Otaguro. Since then, Bajrang is struggling a bit to be that dominant as he was earlier. In 2019 World Championships, Bajrang has to settle for bronze after his controversial loss in semifinals. If this break can make him better mentally and tune his technique, he is unstoppable in Tokyo but even without that, Bajrang is very much capable of finishing in the podium in Tokyo. 

While in the other two categories, India still need to qualify. Though Seema looks consistent in 50kg weight category and she also was seeded in World Championships, she failed to deliver in big stages and went on to lose the trials against Nirmala Devi. Who will represent 50kg for India in Olympic qualifiers. Whether she will book quota for India is still questionable but on the other hand, Satyawart Kadian looks like India’s best bet in 97kg. He, however, hasn’t won any major title so far but his recent exploit in Asian Championships, winning bronze in 2019 events gives a slim hope on him.

Chances of winning medal: 95%

Also read: Not the Olympics | Day 14: The long-awaited glory for Vinesh Phogat

Also read: Not the Olympics | Day 13: A medal for dark horses Indian men’s hockey team 

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