Tokyo Olympics: India’s best bets

Kamesh Srinivasan July 22 | Updated on July 23, 2021

The country pins hopes on women athletes, shooters

Women power saved the blushes for India in the last Olympics in Rio in 2016. Wrestler Sakshi Malik defied the odds to clinch the bronze, the first medal for India at the fag end of the Games in Brazil, while shuttler PV Sindhu stepped it up to get the silver after a thriller of a final against Spain’s Carolina Marin.

At Tokyo, India’s best bets are again our women athletes even as our 127-strong contingent hints at providing the best ever result at the Games. Even without spectators, Sindhu who has a World Championship under her belt has the promise of getting gold, though Pullela Gopi Chand will be missing from the coach’s chair.

But the passage will be hard for her in the knock-out stage, especially against Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei.

In wrestling, the focus will be on Vinesh Phogat, who was taken away in a stretcher at the Rio Olympics after her knee gave way. As the current world No 1 Vinesh is keen to set the record straight. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has come up with gender equality for the Tokyo Games, which will further enhance India’s chances of winning medals. Bajrang Punia will be the face of Indian men’s wrestling this time as he is also on top of the chart.

Finding the mark

Indian shooters start as favourites in many events, after having topped the medals table in a series of World Cups, above the Chinese, Americans, Russians and a strong bunch of European countries.

There are 15 Indian shooters, competing in 20 events, providing the brightest scope for Olympic medals.

The young shooters Manu Bhaker, Elavenil Valarivan have more than one chance to win medals thanks to the introduction of the mixed team events in air pistol and air rifle.

Apurvi Chandela, who won two World Cup gold medals with world record in 2019, has the ability to come good in her second Olympics. Asian Games gold medalist Rahi Sarnobat, too, is a big hope. Indian men are not far behind. Saurabh Chaudhary and Abhishek Verma have been on top in air pistol. In athletics, all eyes will be on javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who had won the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold.

In table tennis, Manika Batra offers hope in the mixed event with the seasoned Sharath Kamal.

Packing a punch

Boxing continues to keep Indian sport forward. Mary Kom, six-time World Champion, is out there thirsting for more after her medal in London Olympics.

And the likes of Amit Panghal and Vikas Krishan have it in them to build on the medal won by Vijender Singh in the Beijing Games in 2008.

There will be Deepika Kumari in Archery, as a dominant force, who won three gold medals in the recent World Cup in Paris. She will also be trying to win the mixed event with her husband Atanu Das. Sania Mirza will be competing in her fourth straight Olympics, pairing this time with Ankita Raina.

World champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, who had a world record recently, will try to erase the painful memories of ‘no lift’ in Rio Olympics to further boost the woman power in Indian sports.

Published on July 23, 2021

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