Rio 2016 was a rather forgettable edition of the Olympics for India. Only two out of the total 117 Indians who participated in the event, managed to win a medal. Since this was India’s largest ever delegation sent to the Olympics,comprising of 117 athletes, many expected that the tally of six medals at the 2012 London Olympics would be overhauled. But it was only wrestler Sakshi Malik and badminton star PV Sindhu who returned home with a medal each on the Olympics medal table.
Four years have passed since, and this time, the Indian Olympic Association will be fielding an even larger contingent at the event. With many new faces in the delegation– some of them being first-timers in the Olympics – the country is once again hopeful that 2020 will be the year of more medals.
In this article, we take a look at the top five athletes who can be expected to clinch a medal for India at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling)
Vinesh Phogat, the face of India’s wrestling contingent, was faced with a heartbreak in the previous edition of the Olympics in Rio, where she had to give in courtesy of an injury in the quarterfinals. But ever since, she has been on a roll and has won several championships. In fact, she became the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the 2020 Olympics after winning a bronze medal at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships.
The 25-year-old had a successful outing in 2018 when she won a gold medal at both the Asian Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in the 50kg category. Last year, she won a bronze medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships and followed it up with gold medals at the Poland Open and Yasar Dogu International.
Phogat began 2020 too on a good note, winning a gold medal at the recently concluded Rome Ranking Series. Expectations will be sky high from the Balali -born wrestler at the Tokyo spectacle.
Bajrang Punia (Wrestling)
Bajrang Punia is the other Indian wrestler among the medal contenders in Tokyo. A protégée of Olympian Yogeshwar Dutt, Punia won his first ever gold at the 2017 Asian Wrestling Championship and has not looked back ever since. A gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games further helped the 25-year-old freestyle wrestler to make a mark on the world wrestling map.
He qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 by winning a silver medal at the World Wrestling Championships last year and in the build-up to the mega event, he has already won a gold at the recently-concluded Rome Ranking Series.
A recipient of the prestigious Arjuna Award, Padma Shri Award and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Punia will be under the pressure of high expectations to add to India's Tokyo Olympics 2020 medal tally.
The 22-year-old javelin thrower is among the front runners to win a medal in Tokyo. Chopra, who made his claim to fame in 2016 with gold at the South Asian Games and IAAF World U20 Championships, has won many other accolades since.
He won a gold medal at both the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. The Haryana based track and field athlete was faced with an elbow injury last year but bounced back stronger in January 2020 when he qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. His throw of 87.86m at the Athletics Central North East Meeting League confirmed his berth in the upcoming Olympics.
Manu Bhaker (Shooting)
The shooting event at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 will see as many as 15 shooters representing India, but most of the hopes will lie on the youngster Manu Bhaker. She has come a long way since 2017, when she won her first international tournament – the Asian Junior Championships.
In 2018 she won a medal at the Commonwealth Games and most importantly, another medal at the ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the 2018 Youth Olympics. These achievements have seen her stamp her authority as one of the best shooters in the world.
In 2019, the 17-year-old won five ISSF World Cup gold medals and another two at the Asian Shooting Championships. Late last year, she booked an Olympic quota courtesy of her performances in the shooting World Cup held in Munich.Published 13 Feb 2020, 13:01 IST