Image Credits: Fisto
On 22nd July 2020 the much-awaited 2020 Olympic Games will begin with much aplomb and multiple sporting events in the capital city of Japan, Tokyo. India with dismal 28 medals from 25 Games will once again look to improve its performance graph. After its best performance in 2012 London Olympics, finishing with six medals India slumped to a low winning mere two medals -- silver in badminton and a bronze in wrestling -- in Rio three years ago.
Fisto Sports looks at India’s five best medal prospects who could win yellow medal for the country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary
10m air pistol With four gold medals from four ISSF World Cups, this teenage shooting sensation is amongst top contenders for the Olympic gold medal. She will make her maiden Olympic appearance in Tokyo next in 10m pistol event. Bhaker missed a chance to win bronze by 0.1 point in the 25m pistol at ISSF Munich World Cup in May this year, but the fourth finish ensured her an Olympic quota. On the other hand, Chaudhary earned his 10 m pistol event quota with a greater exploit- a then world record score (245.0) and a gold medal on his senior debut at the ISSF New Delhi World Cup in February. As quota places in shooting got to the country, not to the athlete Bhaker and Chaudhary will be able to take part in both their individual as well as the mixed doubles event. The teenagers will look to continue their swansong in Tokyo and make a podium finish. Considering their recent form the coveted gold medal from 10m mixed doubles and individual events – men and women – can’t be ruled out. Bhaker and Chaudhary are amongst the nine Indian shooters who qualified for Tokyo Games till date.
Wrestling, 65kg The star wrestler from Haryana is a flamboyant athlete. World No. 1 wrestler, Punia, who is also the first Indian to achieve the feat across any weight category, won eight gold medals from nine tournaments. And he maintains her fitness like a champion wrestler. His dedication to the sport is second to none. What Punia has not won? He has conquered 65kg weight category at the Asian Games (1gold, 1 silver), Commonwealth Games (1 gold, 1 silver), Asian Championships (2 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze), World Championships (1 silver, 1 bronze). At the same time, he got a mentor like Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt who is leaving no stone unturned in his preparation keeping a view of the forthcoming World Championships in Kazakhstan starting September 14. Punia will not like to let the opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Games to slip away. Amid his achievements, he confronted two surprise defeats against younger opponents - Takuto Otoguro and Yianni Diakomihalis at the 2018 World Championships and the Madison Square Garden this year, respectively. Though Punia has been dominative his defeat against Otoguro, who happened to be the youngest male wrestler in the history of his country at the World Championships, amongst Japan’s brightest Olympic medal prospects in wrestling and the Indian’s biggest challenger. Punia’s loss to the Japanese exposed his flaws. Now, he has been working on his leg defence. He has to work hard and make improvements keeping mind that at 25 Tokyo Olympics will be his best opportunity to win the gold.
Kolothum Thodi Irfan
20km walk In March this year, national record holder Kolothum Thodi Irfan created history as he became the first Indian from athletics to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, finishing fourth in the 20 km event at the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan. The 29-year-old clocked 1 hour 20 minutes and 57 seconds to book his Olympic berth. He covered the distance three seconds before the qualification mark 1 hour 21 seconds. Upon his qualification, Irfan became the only Indian to have qualified for next year’s gala sporting event from athletics. Malappuram born youngster has a personal best of 1 hour 20 minutes and 21 seconds, a national record. He also qualified for Doha World Championships as he bettered the qualifying mark of 1:22:30.
Badminton women’s singles In the backdrop of her 2019 BWF World Championships gold, PV Sindhu is being considered as India’s most reliable medal prospect. Sindhu today is a vastly improved shuttler than what she was in the 2016 Rio Olympics when she won silver. The 24-year-old is now at the peak of her career. Her jump smashes and agility on the court demonstrated her fitness and strength. Her willingness to push herself out of comfort zone is a testament of her hunger for success. Her techniques and positioning on the court have especially been brilliant. In the final of Indonesia Open Super Series, Sindhu’s brilliant variations were in full display in the build-up to the final. In Basel, she made her opponents sweat by the end of the first game as they could not hold breath to encounter aggressive Sindhu. Okuhara, who on many occasions found Sindhu demanding, finished at the receiving end as she fell victim to the Indian's sheer speed. Now Sindhu is one of the strongest shuttlers in badminton. With form and fitness in her side, she may not find it difficult to clinch country’s maiden Olympic gold in badminton in 2020 Tokyo Olympics, if she continues to perform in the same vein and maintain her fitness.