A total of 21 Indian track and field athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 thus far. Although the number of track and field athletes that have qualified for the mega event has reduced significantly from the 34 that had qualified in Rio Olympics, the chances of winning a medal have improved from last time.
With the likes of Neeraj Chopra, Annu Rani, TajinderPal Singh Toor and Kamalpreet Kaur representing India at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, one can expect the Indian track and field team to come home with at least one medal this time around.
The qualification deadline for athletics events was the 29th of June, 2021. A total of 3 athletes, including Dutee Chand and Annu Rani, made the cut for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 with their rankings in their respective events.
However, some athletes just missed the ranking cut-off by a whisker and will be hoping to get a call from the international body, the IAAF, as and when some athlete pulls out.
Indian track and field athletes who can still qualify for the Tokyo Olympics 2020
A total of 4 Indian athletes have a shot at making the cut for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Changes in the qualification system for the Track and Field events at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 have allowed the athletes who are just outside of the rankings to sit on a reserved list.
If any athlete from any country pulls out of the mega event, that spot will go to the athlete that is first on the reserves' list. Before the 2019 World Athletics Championships, Archana Suseentran of India was awarded a place in the women's 200 meters event at the biennial event.
Four such Indian track and field athletes who'll be waiting in the wings are:
1. Parul Chaudhary (women's 5000 meters)
A total of 42 athletes will be taking part in the women's 5000-meter event at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. India's Parul Chaudhary is currently placed 43rd on the Road to Tokyo list for this event with 1139 points.
Parul Chaudhary was a 3000-meter steeplechase specialist before she switched to the 5000m event in 2018. The switch proved to be very fruitful for her as she won a bronze medal in this event at the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships in Doha with timing of 15:36.03 minutes. Parul clocked a season's best time of 15:48.49 minutes at the Indian Grand Prix 3 event in 2021.
Parul will be hopeful of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 as she only needs one athlete to pull out of the event for her to make the cut.
2. P.U. Chitra (women's 1500 meters)
The 2019 Asian Champion in the women's 1500 meters event, P.U. Chitra, is another Indian athlete who is on the waiting list for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Chitra is placed in the 47th position on the Road to Tokyo list for the women's 1500 meters event. A total of 45 spots are up for grabs in this event.
Chitra, the 2018 Asian games bronze medalist, was making good progress in 2019. But in 2020, when the pandemic struck, her training was severely affected and she lost all the momentum she had created in 2019.
She did not give her best in 2021 and slipped away from the rankings and currently sits 2nd on the reserve list for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Now she needs a couple of pull-outs to ensure that she qualifies for the quadrennial event.
3. Harmilan Bains (women's 1500 meters)
22-year-old Harmilan Bains has shown a lot of improvement in 2021. She gave it her all to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 but could not achieve the direct qualification mark of 4:04.20 minutes in the women's 1500 meter event.
However, Harmilan came up with impressive timings of 4:08.70 minutes and 4:08.29 minutes at the Federation Cup and the Indian Grand Prix 4 event in 2021. Her performances in 2021 pushed her ranking up, but she still lies 4th on the reserve list for athletes in the women's 1500 meters event with 1146 points.
Although it will be very difficult for Indian athletes to make a cut in the women's 1500 meter event, word on the grapevine is that certain countries (like Great Britain and Germany) are not sending some of their qualified athletes for this event. The AFI needs to keep an eye out for these developments to ensure these athletes make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
4. Gurpreet Singh (men's 50km race walk)
India's 50 km racewalk veteran Gurpreet Singh is 2nd on the reserve list in the rankings for Road to Tokyo Olympics 2020. Gurpreet has 1116 ranking points against his name and is currently sitting in the 62nd spot. A total of 60 racewalkers are set to participate in the 50km race walk event at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
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However, the path to Gurpreet's qualification is clear as Great Britain has decided not to send its racewalkers Cameron Corbishley and Dominic King to the mega event. This effectively puts Gurpreet in the 60th spot on the road to Tokyo. It is now up to the federation if they want to latch on to this vacancy created.