Who will win medals for India at Tokyo Olympics? Favourites, Underdogs and Outsiders
As the sports fans gear up to watch their heroes in action at the world's biggest sporting spectacle, we try to look at the players who can potentially win a medal for India at Tokyo Olympics.
The countdown for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has started. The delayed Games are expected to kick start in less than 20 days, with all the necessary covid-19 protocols in place.
As the sports fans in the country gear up to watch their heroes in action at the world's biggest sporting spectacle, here, we try to look at the players who can potentially win a medal for India at the Tokyo Olympics.
Saurabh Chaudhary is just 19 years old. But you ask Indian sports fans or pundits to pick their favourite to bring home a medal from Tokyo, and there is no way they will not utter 'Saurabh Chaudhary' with full confidence. Hailing from the city of Meerut, Saurabh will enter the Tokyo Olympics as the second-ranked shooter in both the 2021 World Rankings and the Tokyo 2020 Rankings. Saurabh Chaudhary will be in action in two events for India at Tokyo – the Men's 10m air Pistol and Mixed 10m air Pistol.
Yet another young pistol shooter, who is expected to return with a medal, Manu Bhaker hails from the state of Haryana. The 19-year-old will become only the second Indian to compete in three different events at a single edition of the Olympics when she takes to the shooting range in Tokyo. Manu Bhaker will be seen competing in Women's 10m air Pistol, Mixed 10m air Pistol and the Women's 25m Pistol at the Olympics.
Having qualified for the second Olympics of her Wrestling career, Vinesh Phogat will be ranked number 1 in the world going into the Tokyo Games. The 26-year-old has been in some terrific form this season, winning gold medals in all the tournaments she has participated in the year. Besides, Vinesh will also be the first seed in women's 53kg weight division at the Olympics, which in turn might help her in getting some favourable draws during the early rounds.
Bajrang Punia has been the flag-bearer of Indian wrestling for the past couple of years now. Having spent much of the early part of his career under the shadows of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, the 27-year-old Punia seems to have peaked at the very right time. Competing in his first-ever Olympics, Bajrang Punia will be the second seed in Men's 65kg weight division.
A total of nine Indian boxers have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, but only Amit Panghal will enter the Games as world number 1. The 25-year-old from Haryana has churned out some highly consistent performances in recent times and is expected to return home with a podium finish with ease.
Probably the only sure-shot medallist for India at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Mirabai Chanu will enter the Games as the second seed in women's 49kg weight division. Traditionally weightlifting has been one of the easier sports to predict the winners in, and with the 26-year-old Indian's best lift of 205kg bettered only by China's Hou Zhihui, a podium finish at Tokyo is expected to be a cakewalk for Mirabai Chanu.
The only Indian woman boxer to have an Olympic medal against her name, Mary Kom, is a living legend. The 38-year-old has earned podium finishes there has ever been and will be eyeing to upgrade the colour of her Olympic medal from brown when she takes to the ring in Tokyo. Mary Kom will start the Olympics as world number 7 in women's 51kg and surely will be an underdog at the Tokyo Games.
The 2016 Olympics silver medallist, PV Sindhu, has not been at her best off late. The 26-year-old will enter the Tokyo Olympics as the sixth seed in women's singles and will have to ward off fights from the likes of Tai Tzu Ying, Chen Yu Fei, Nozomi Okuhara, Akane Yamaguchi if she is to return home with her second Olympic medal.
While all the focus when it comes to men's shooting for India falls on the young Saurabh Chaudhary, one man who has gone about his work without making much fuss is the 31-year-old Abhishek Verma. Even though he took up shooting pretty late in life, Verma has moved up the ranks rather quickly to establish himself as one of the best in the country. He will enter the Tokyo Olympics as number 1 in Tokyo 2020 Rankings and number 3 in 2021 rankings.
Rahi Sarnobat represented India at the 2012 London Games before missing out on the 2016 Rio Olympics. The 30-year-old will be back in action for the country in the quadrennial event once again, ranked number 1 in 2021 rankings and number 2 in Tokyo 2020 Rankings. She has been in stupendous form off late, winning the Women's 25m Pistol at the ISSF World Cup in Croatia. She has usually been shaky during the qualification rounds and comes into her own only during the finals. If she can somehow scrape through the early part, then Rahi Sarnobat, surely, would be a medal contender at Tokyo.
Just 23-years-of age, Ravi Dahiya already boasts of multiple Asian Championships gold medals and a World Championship bronze. He will be seeded fourth in the men's 57kg weight division and will have some very tough bouts on his way to a podium finish.
Deepak Punia shot to fame when he was crowned the World Junior Champion in 2019. There has been no looking back since for the 22-year-old, who will enter the Tokyo Olympics as the second seed in men's 87kg weight division.
Men's Archery Team
The Indian men's archery team of Atanu Das, Pravin Jadhav and Tarundeep Rai have displayed consistent performances in recent times. The trio is currently ranked number 10 in the world and is a perfect mixture of youth and experience. Just one good day where all three of them shoot the best of their lives, and they might be up there fighting for a podium finish in Tokyo.
India has never won an Olympic medal in athletics, and Neeraj Chopra is the country's best bet to clinch that coveted medal at Tokyo. The 23-year-old qualified for the Tokyo Olympics back in January last year and has thrown the javelin to a maximum of 88.07m. While this distance might not really be enough for Chopra to earn a podium finish in Tokyo, he surely will be a dark horse going into the Olympics.
Deepika Kumari went on to bag three gold medals in a single day during the World Cup Stage 3 in Paris last month. She has, in fact, been in a stunning form in 2021, clinching two individual gold medals at the Archery World Cup. This performance has ensured that the 27-year-old veteran will be the highest-ranked woman archer in the world going into the Olympics. But her way to the podium will not be easy, as she is expected to face some tough competition from the South Korean and Mexican archers. Besides, Deepika has a history of faltering at the Olympics, and she would need to be on top of her game to have any chance of returning with a medal from Tokyo.
Vikas Krishan has been around the Indian boxing circuit for a very long time. The 29-year-old has won medals for the country in almost all the prestigious events like Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Championships, World Championships, except for the Olympics. He has previously competed in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games, albeit without any success. Vikas will enter the Tokyo Olympics as world number 10 in men's 69kg and surely possess the ability to punch above his weight at the quadrennial event.
Men's Hockey Team
The last time the Indian hockey team won a medal at the Olympics was way back during the 1980 Moscow Games, and the sport has since lost the popularity it enjoyed back then in the country, with the performance of India dipping considerably. But, the current Indian setup seems a bit different. It is a blend of the exuberance of youth and maturity of veterans and has produced some consistent results in recent times. With the improvement they have shown over the past few years, the men's hockey team will surely have an outside chance of a podium finish in Tokyo.