Several athletic events, both domestic and international, have been lined up in the months leading up to the world’s biggest sporting spectacle. The Indian Grand Prix (IGP) was the first big opportunity for Indian track and field exponents to punch their Tokyo tickets. Unfortunately, none of the athletes were close to the Olympic qualifying standards.
Deadline for the Tokyo Olympic qualification period
Athletes will be hoping for a change in fortunes at the Indian Grand Prix IV, slated to begin on June 15. The last event to count towards Olympic qualification will be the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships, scheduled to be held from June 25-29.
The month of June is going to bring with it a plethora of points, which athletes will desperately look to bag in order to fulfill their Olympic dreams. The athletic qualification period for the Tokyo Olympics will remain open until June 29.
All eyes on Anas and Johnson as they target Tokyo Olympic berths
So far, a total of 11 Indian track and field athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, with many more in contention to secure quotas.
India's leading 400m runner Muhammed Anas Yahiya has a personal best of 45.20 seconds in 400m, which is also a national record. The timing is still a considerable distance away from the Olympic qualifying mark of 44.90 seconds. Expectations will be high from Anas after his second-place finishes in the 100m and 200m events at the IGP.
Anas was part of the 4x400 mixed relay team, which had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after finishing third in the second heat of the 2019 World Athletics Championships semi-finals. Come June, the Asian Games silver medalist will capitalize on the opportunity to qualify for his pet 400m event.
Among other Olympic hopefuls, middle distance runner Jinson Johnson will be racing against time to make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.
Johnson is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury which kept him sidelined for a year. A series of other injuries has affected his preparations during the qualifying cycle of Tokyo Olympics as well.
Prioritizing his fitness, the Asian Games gold medalist will be eager to put his best foot forward to seal a place in Tokyo. Johnson, whose personal best is 3 minutes 35.24 seconds in 1500m, has a good chance of breaching the Olympic qualification time of 3 minutes and 35 seconds.
Asian Games medalist Arokia Rajiv is another hopeful after his stupendous IGP campaign in February. He and Anas were locked in a thrilling contest for the 200m sprint title at the IGP. Rajiv outpowered Anas by a mere 0.20 seconds, clocking 21.24 seconds. He has a personal best of 45.37 seconds in the 400m sprint, set at the Asian Athletic Championships in April, 2019.
History of India's track and field performances at the Olympics
While things could change in the next four months, athletes have been giving it their all to make the Olympic cut. If things fall in the right place, this year's Tokyo Games could be the best-ever Olympics in the history of Indian athletics.
The Tokyo Olympics will be the 24th time that India will compete in athletic events at the mega event. The fact that India has won only two medals so far proves that athletics has never been the nation's strong suit at the Olympics.
Norman Pritchard shot to fame after becoming the first Asian athlete to win an Olympic medal. He bagged two silver medals, each in men’s 200m and men’s 200m hurdles, at the 1900 Paris Olympics.
Milkha Singh was one of the leading 400m runners in the world at the 1960 Olympics. At the Rome Olympics, he proved his mettle by qualifying for the final of the 400m dash only to finish fourth.
One of the greatest athletes that India has ever produced, PT Usha, made waves at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics after finishing fourth in 400m. She became the first Indian female athlete to reach the final of an Olympic event in the process.
India's current generation will hope to draw inspiration from these greats as they set their sights on a Tokyo Olympic appearance.