Tokyo Olympics: Watch out for these 10 Indians

In last two Olympic Games, India’s tally was six and two medals in 2012 and 2016 Games respectively. Prediction of sports enthusiasts this time is that number will be ‘more than two but less than 10’

(From Left to Right) Mary Kom, Deepika Kumari, PV Sindhu, and Vinesh Phogat
(From Left to Right) Mary Kom, Deepika Kumari, PV Sindhu, and Vinesh Phogat

Rohit Bhandiye

The world's biggest sporting extravaganza, the Olympic Games begin in Tokyo from July 23. A strong Indian contingent of 125 athletes will be vying for Olympic glory. This is India's largest ever contingent at the Olympics. There are 70 men and 55 women in the team.

From Archery to Fencing, Boxing to Wrestling, Badminton to Shooting, India is participating in 18 sporting events and 85 different medal categories at the Olympics this year.

India had bagged a record six medals at the 2012 London Olympics (two Silver and four Bronze). However, the Indian contingent could win only two medals at the last edition in 2016 at Rio with PV Sindhu (Silver) and Sakshi Malik (Bronze) claiming historic podium finish on their Games debut. Dipa Karmakar, Abhinav Bindra and Sania Mirza/Rohan Bopanna finishing fourth and narrowly missing a medal.

In 2016, the United States led the field with 46 golds, with Great Britain second on 27 and China third with 26. The US won 121 medals in all and was followed by China with 70 medals and Great Britain with 67 medals. Japan, the host country at the 2020 Games, came sixth in 2016 with 12 gold medals.

The current Indian squad is said to be the strongest in decades having six World No. 1-ranked athletes and several others within the top 10. Will Tokyo 2020 prove to be a game-changer for Indian sports is what Indians will be waiting to see.

Some of India’s top medal contenders at Tokyo 2020 are the following:

PV Sindhu (Badminton)

2016 Rio Olympics Silver medalist PV Sindhu will look forward to add yet another Olympic medal to her kitty. Currently ranked at seventh place in BWF rankings, the 26-year-old Indian is still amongst the best shuttlers in the world. She recently made it to the final of Swiss Open and semifinals of the All England Open. Although she's not had the most consistent run over the past couple of years after her victory at the 2019 World Championships, Sindhu is capable of beating any world-class player on a given day.

Mary Kom (Boxing)

India’s most celebrated boxer MC Mary Kom will go into the Olympics with her two-decades long experience. For the six-time World Champion, Asian Games gold medalist and London Olympics bronze medalist, the only thing missing from her cupboard is an elusive Olympic gold and the 2020 Tokyo Games will be the last opportunity for the 38-year-old to complete her cabinet with another yellow metal. Mary Kom recently won silver at the Asian Boxing Championship in 2021 and will be looking to go all out in Tokyo.

Saurabh Chaudhary (Shooting)

With 15 Indian shooters travelling to Tokyo, the best prospect of an individual medal will be Saurabh Chaudhary in the men's 10m air pistol event. The 19-year old child prodigy has been easily the most consistent shooter in the world over the past two years. Chaudhary was the youngest Indian gold medalist at the 2018 Asian Games. The youngster has won eight Gold medals at ISSF World Cup and recently won Gold in New Delhi in 2021 at the ISSF World Cup.

Manu Bhaker (Shooting)

19-year-old Manu Bhaker will be one of the top medal contenders for India in her favourite 10m air pistol event. At the 2018 Youth Olympics Games in Buenos Aires, she became the first Indian shooter to win a gold medal and has shown remarkable consistency since then. Bhaker is also a nine-time Gold Medalist at ISSF World Cup. Bhaker and Chaudhary will be among the favourites to win a medal in the 10m air pistol mixed team event as well as the duo have dominated competitions since 2019.

Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling)

Currently ranked world number one in women’s 53 kg category, Vinesh Phogat has been incredibly consistent over the past few years. She is unbeaten this year with gold medals at the Asian Championships, Rome Ranking series and Poland Open. Phogat has also been a medal winner at the World Championship. Top seeded in Tokyo, the 2018 Asian Games gold medalist will be looking forward to go past her bitter memories of a career-threatening injury at 2016 Rio Olympics and fetch the elusive medal for India.

Bajrang Punia (Wrestling)

Bajrang Punia has been one of the most successful wrestlers over the last four years, having won two medals at the World Championship, Gold at Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. Seeded at second position in Tokyo in men’s 65 kg category, Punia’s pressure and stamina make him a major threat to any opponent. The 27-year-old will be high on confidence going to Tokyo having won Gold in Rome Ranking series and Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series in Rome recently.

Mirabai Chanu (Weightlifting)

Mirabai Chanu will be India’s only athlete to take part in the weightlifting event and could almost certainly become the second weightlifter since Karnam Malleswari in 2000 to win an Olympic medal. Currently ranked world number two in 49 kg category, Chanu is a former World Champion. The 26-year-old also holds the clean and jerk world record in her category and has been a gold medalist at World Championships and 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Amit Panghal (Boxing)

Amit Panghal is the top seeded boxer at Tokyo in the 52 kg category. Currently ranked world number one, Panghal is perhaps the fastest boxer in his weight class, which makes up for his lack of reach. The reigning Asian Games champion and World Championship silver-medalist is in excellent touch coming off a strong performance having won a Gold at the Boxing World Cup in Germany and should be among the favourites to win a medal.

Neeraj Chopra (Athletics)

Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra’s incredibly consistent performance in the Olympic year, with him routinely throwing the javelin around the 85m mark, has given the country hopes of a medal in Athletics at the Olympics, a rarity in Indian sports. The 23-year-old hogged the limelight after he won Gold at the 2018 Asian Games as well as the Commonwealth Games. If he throws anything around or better than his personal best of 88.07m, Chopra stands a very good chance of a podium finish.

Deepika Kumari (Archery)

Deepika Kumari is in top form as she recently became the first Indian to win three individual women’s recurve gold medals at the Archery World Cup in Guatemala City in April 2021. Currently placed at world number one in the rankings, the 29-year-old three-time Olympian will look to overcome her lackluster performance in her previous two attempts at the Olympics and bring home the elusive Archery medal for India.

Indians will be hoping for dark horses and new talents to spring a surprise besides winning the team event in field hockey. But at this point, these 10 look like India’s best bet.

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