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Kon'nichiwa India!- India at Tokyo Olympics 2020 

VANSHIKA AGARWAL

After a long period of fifty seven years, Tokyo has been bestowed with the opportunity to organise the prestigious International Sports extravaganza, the Modern Olympics 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the games were postponed indefinitely, initially. As of now, they are scheduled to commence from the 23rd of July to the 8th of August, 2021. 

India’s olympic journey has become more promising with each edition. The number of Indian athletes participating has seen a significant rise in past three editions and all signs point to the finest athletes continuing that trend for India at Tokyo 2020. 

Like every other Olympic edition since 1920, Indian athletes are once again set to appear for the 2020 edition. A total of 74 competitors, both men and women, have paved their way in order to represent their nation in 35 events that include the following sports- Archery, Athletics, Boxing, Equestrian, Field Hockey, Shooting and Wrestling. 

An overall synopsis of each sport is as follows 

Archery 

The Rio Olympics 2016 came as a fiasco to India's archery team. The Indian Archery team looks at the Tokyo olympics with a lens of redemption and targets success. 

The factionalism in the Archery Association of India (AAI) had led to its suspension by the World Archery Association in 2019. Indian archers were barred from competing at the South Asian Games, and could only compete under a neutral flag. Now that the ban has been lifted, Indian archers have shown excitement and great zeal for Tokyo. 

Atanu Das, who played his first olympic game at Rio de Janeiro 2016, along with Tarundeep Rai and Pravin Jadhav have qualified for Men’s Recurve, Individuals. The men's trio will also compete as a team at Tokyo 2020. 

As of now, only one woman archerer, Deepika Kumari who is currently ranked World no. 9 qualified for Women's Recurve, Individuals. Kumari won a quota after winning the gold medal at the Asian Continental Qualification Tournament in Bangkok in 2019. Dronacharya award-winning archery coach Dharmendra Tiwary believes that the inclusion of the mixed-team event in the Tokyo Olympics archery programme has bolstered India’s chances of a maiden medal at the Summer Games. The Indian mixed teams have won medals in World Cups on more than one occasion, which makes India’s chances more optimistic. Deepika Kumari and Antanu Das who are likely to team up in both personal and professional life, are the most potential candidates for the event. 

Athletics 

Athletics, although not our strongest suit, has had people’s hope high with budding javelin throwers Neeraj Chopra and Shivpal Singh. The latter, who is ranked 16th in the men’s IAAF world rankings, has proved his mettle at both 2018 and 2019 Asian Championship and even bagged the silver medal in 2019. Neeraj Chopra, on the other hand, World Junior Record holder for Javelin from 2016, is a 4 time gold medalist in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, South Asian Games and Asian Championships respectively. 

The 4x400 mixed relay, which will be debuting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics shall also witness an Indian team comprising Mohammed Anas, VK Vismaya, Jisna Mathew and Noah Nirmal Tom, who qualified for the finals at the 2019 IAAF World Athletic Championship held at Doha. 

Additionally, the first person to qualify for the season from this realm, KT Irfan, who though has a history of violating the ‘no needle’ policy at the Commonwealth Games, is expected to cut his losses and come back stronger.

Boxing 

India has shown their brawn in boxing over the years. So far with two bronze medals won in 2008 and 2012 Olympics courtesy Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom, after a dry disappointing spell at Rio, Indian boxers once again revealed their strength at the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers in Jordan. The Indian boxers punched nine tickets- five men and four women boxers to the Tokyo Olympics at the Asia Oceania boxing Olympic qualifiers held in Amman, Jordan- reaching the necessary rounds in various weight categories to become eligible. Mary Kom who has time and again shown her versatility; Simranjit Kaur a sensation with her vigilance and three big medals — silver at the qualifiers and Asian championships and a bronze at the World Championship make her promising. 

Vikas Krishan who was remarked to be in a self-imposed shell for the past 4 years, has now finally exposed himself and has come back to the ring with more sense, and guile than that in 2016 Rio. Lovlina Borgohain and Pooja Rani are two other qualifying boxers. 

Ashish Kumar, Satish Kumar, Amit Panghal and Manish Kaushik made it to the event. Although yet again India has their hopes up, our boxers, with their losses in the semifinals and finals of the qualifying tournament take into consideration that it was an Asian level competition, have left us with more doubts than solid assurances. Moreover as seen in the case of various boxers, a mental block employing evasive tactics or being defensive in the ring — both necessary when facing world class opponents in the medal rounds. Indian boxers need to come out as imposters in the ring each time they enter and re-enter. 

Equestrian 

Two times Asian Games medallist Equestrian Fouaad Mirza is the first Indian to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, ending a wait spanning two decades. Mirza shot to fame when he became the first Indian since 1982 to win an Asian Games individual medal in equestrian besides guiding the country to a second-place finish in the team competition in Jakarta in 2018. Mirza, who is the third olympic equestrian from India after Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Olympics, has brought with him optimism for Tokyo 2020. 

Field hockey 

The performance of Indian hockey teams in the past has proven that Hockey is India’s National Sport for a reason. India happens to be the country with the most gold medals in field hockey in the history of Olympics, and consequently, hockey should be one of our strongest Olympic fortes. However, from 1928 to 2021, a span of almost 93 years, a lot has changed. Since the denouement of the ‘Golden Period’ for the Indian Hockey Team i.e from 1928 to 1956, India’s journey at all Games, let alone the Olympics, has been no lesser than a rollercoaster. 

Nevertheless, overcoming all ups and downs, both the Men’s and the Women’s Field Hockey teams have managed to qualify for the finals at Tokyo, and will be opening against New Zealand and Netherlands respectively. The former, standing 4th worldwide, and the latter 9th, are expected to emerge as champions against all odds, as beating Russia and USA respectively wouldn’t necessarily have been a cakewalk. 

Hopefully, Bollywood will see a potential Chak De India 2.0 in July! 

Shooting 

Fifteen prominent shooters qualified for the Tokyo Olympics at the 14th Asian Shooting Championship at Doha, Qatar. With several young marksmen excelling at the highest level, winning titles at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cups, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. Shooting at Olympics 2020 are perceived as hope at the end of the tunnel. Rio brought India face to face with the existing mismanagement and lack of accountability in the system, which wrought saddening results despite the high aspirations. 

Anjum Moudgil was the first Indian athlete to make the cut by taking a silver medal at the World Championships in Changwon, South Korea in 2018 which was the first qualification event for the Olympics. Saurabh Chaudhary, the 17 year old youngster has won five gold and five silver medals already at various championships. Rahi Sarnobat, the veteran shooter became the first Indian woman shooter to qualify for the Olympics in the 25m Air Pistol back in 2012. Manu Bhakar, the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup, has never disappointed. So far in her career, Manu Bhaker has won four individual gold medals in her pet 10m Air Pistol event and six gold medals in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team event. Youngsters Divyansh Singh Panwar and Elavenil Valarivan - the highest-ranked in the 10m Air Rifle men’s and women’s respectively, while Manu Bhaker has had prolific returns, India's medal expectations from shooting are quite high. 

Wrestling 

Wrestling has been one of India’s strong suits in the past. While the Tokyo 2020 run for two of India’s decorated Olympian wrestlers- Sushil Kumar and Sakshi Malik is as good as over, youngsters have punched tickets to Tokyo. the following athletes have secured a quota place in their respective categories: 

1. Bajrang Punia, Men’s Freestyle 65 kg 

2. Vinesh Phogat, Women’s Freestyle 53 kg 

3. Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Men’s Freestyle 57 kg 

4. Deepak Punia, Men’s Freestyle 86 kg 

After a torrid time at Rio olympics 2016, Vinesh Phogat looks for a chance to shine at Tokyo 2020 Olympics. After finally recovering from serious knee injuries, Vinesh Phogat’s qualification for Tokyo raises hopes for a gold. The wrestling squad’s recent performances have been encouraging and favourable for India. 

With the Olympics nearing, Indian sports writers, intellectuals and academics have built hopes and made their predictions with medal tallies and close observation of the qualifying sportsmen and women. According to sports writer Boria Majumdar, unlike Rio, things seem more positive for Tokyo primarily because he believes that there are better systems in place, with greater accountability and sport infrastructure is in a better place. The Tokyo olympics once again are being perceived as a turning point in India's sports history. Badminton has been a big medal hope for India in recent times. While India's qualifications for badminton seem uncertain for now because of the badminton controversy and badly planned sports calendars for the players, a solution is expected considering the great gems- P.V Sindhu, Sania Nehwal, B Sai Praneeth. There have been drastic changes in India’s sport portfolio over the years. Indian athletes have learnt to ply their trades in various sport events. Tokyo olympics 2020 will be a witness to India’s young sporting talent. Sports enthusiasts and academics expect at least eight to nine medals from India’s Olympic Squad especially from Manu Bhaker, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, P.V Sindhu, Amit Panghal, Neeraj Chopra and many others.