India’s hopes for an Olympic medal could test on these athletes
Every four years, the focal point of discussions among Indian sports fanatics changes from the usual suspects like cricket and European football to the Olympics. The quadrennial event takes the centre stage, and athletes become household names within a span of a fortnight.
This year India has over 10 athletes within the Top 10 of world rankings and there is a hope of registering the highest ever tally in the upcoming games in Tokyo.
Here are top 5 contenders from India to keep an eye on at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Manu Bhaker (Shooting)
Manu Bhaker will be in contention for a medal in as many as three events. She will participate in individual events and a team event as well. Manu is ranked number 2 in the 10M air pistol, and is the number 7th in the 25M air pistol category. She will be the favourite to win the medal in the 10M air pistol mixed event with Saurabh Chaudhary, with whom she has won 5 World Cup gold medals and a silver medal in the past two years.
Neeraj Chopra (Athletics)
The hope for ending India’s long wait for an Olympic medal in track and field is on Neeraj Chopra’s shoulders. The Javelin thrower qualified for the Olympics with a throw of 88.07m in January 2020. The throw would have fetched a bronze medal at the Rio Games in 2016. Neeraj burst onto the scene with a throw of 86.28 just before the Rio Games, which set the junior world record. If Neeraj is at his absolute best, a podium finish will be the least expected from him.
Bajrang Punia (Wrestling)
Bajrang Punia will be leading India’s challenge in wrestling. He will compete in the 65 Kg weight category. The category is known as the group of death, but the wrestler has shown his mettle with three World Championship medals – the most by any Indian in the tournament – including a bronze in the World Championship in 2019. The grappler trained under London Olympics silver medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, and will be one of the key contenders for a medal.
Mirabhai Chanu (Weightlifting)
Mirabhai Chanu’s name has been doing the rounds as one of India’s foremost athletes for more than three years. The weightlifter is ranked second in the world in the 49kg category. The 26-year-old set a new world record in the clean-and-jerk event at the 2021 Asian weightlifting championships. She failed to register a successful lift at the Rio Olympics, however she made a stellar comeback with wins at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
Deepika Kumari (Archery)
Over the past decade, Deepika Kumari has been the poster girl of Indian archery. She is the world no. 1 in her category and her recent win at the World Cup will boost her confidence. In the past, Kumari entered the London Olympics as the numero uno archer in the world but crashed out in the first round of the event. She will be aiming to bury the demons and win the elusive Olympic medal. With the introduction of a mixed team event, in which she will participate with training partner and husband Atanu Das, Deepika Kumar will be one of the favourites.
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Noteworthy, the Olympics hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for India. A country with the second highest population in the world has won just 28 medals at the Games so far, including only one individual gold medal. The hopes were high at the Rio games, but the contingent returned with just a couple of medals. Hopefully, the athletes surpass the six-medal tally of London and go into double digits this time around.
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