Over the years, India has seen many athletes shine at the Olympics. While some of them earned medals, a few others astonished everyone with their stellar performances. But a few exemplary athletes featured several times at the Olympics without earning a medal or falling short in their performance.
With the Tokyo Olympics set to kickstart in a few months, the below athletes will focus on performing their best to breakthrough the Olympics and make a mark one final time.
#1 Leander Paes
Leander Paes is regarded as the greatest doubles tennis player in the world. The legend will turn 48 this year and will look forward to his 8th appearance at the Summer Olympics, provided he qualifies for the Tokyo Games.
Paes has represented India at every Summer Olympics since 1992 and he won the bronze medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Last year, Paes announced his retirement, calling 2020 his last professional season culminating with the Tokyo Olympics.
The Tokyo Games will be the last Olympic appearance for the Olympic bronze medalist and 18-time Grand Slam Champion.
#2 Mary Kom
Indian boxing legend Mary Kom, also known as 'Magnificient Mary', has been India's pride. In her first appearance at the 2012 London Olympics, she won the bronze, becoming the first Indian female to win an Olympic medal in boxing.
She is also is the only female boxer to become the World Amateur Boxing Champion a record six times and the only boxer to win 8 World Championship medals.
Though Mary failed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics, the veteran Indian boxer has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 51kg category. The 37-year-old bids to sign off on her career in the Olympics Ring as she will most certainly make her final appearance at the Tokyo Olympics.
#3 Sushil Kumar
Sushil Kumar is arguably one of the greatest Indian Olympians of all time. Having won a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a silver at the 2012 London Olympics, he is the only individual Indian athlete to win multiple Olympic medals since independence.
He won both of his Olympic medals in the 66kg category, but has recently shifted to the 74kg category. His last major appearance was at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where he won his third Commonwealth gold medal by defeating Qamar Abbas in the finals.
The 37-year-old is now focused on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. If he makes it, this will be a chance to win his third Olympic medal and script history before he plans to call it quits.
Talking about his age getting the better off him, he said,
"Yes, I’m ageing, and I cannot change the fact. But I believe that with age comes experience. One’s ability to play gets richer as well. Some things are taken away with age, but one also gets a whole lot of things. So, I would bank on my experience to play."
#4 Achanta Sharath Kamal
Achanta Sharath Kamal has represented India at three Olympic Games (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, and Rio 2016). He has been one of the prime players of the Indian Table Tennis teams. Moreover, the 38-year-old paddler is one of the top-ranked Indian players in the World. The four-time Commonwealth gold medalist is set to appear for his fourth Olympic Games if he qualifies for Tokyo.
#5 Tarundeep Rai
Archer Tarundeep Rai has represented the country at two Olympic Games - Athens 2004 and London 2012. The veteran has earned laurels for the country in his two-decade long career. However, the 37-year-old is determined to win an Olympic medal before he bids adieu to his career after securing a quota at the Tokyo Olympics in the recurve individual event. He will compete in the team event along with Atanu Das and Pravin Jadhav.
"After these 24 years, I need to win an Olympic medal. At the same time, the country deserves it. This 24-year journey will only be complete when I win a medal at the Tokyo Games next year," said Tarundeep Rai.
#6 Saina Nehwal
Indian Badminton Queen Saina Nehwal is the stepping stone for bringing an Olympic medal to India in Badminton. She won the bronze at the 2012 London Olympics but was eliminated in the second round of the 2016 Rio Olympics. She went through a career-threatening knee surgery, but made a comeback within 6-8 months.
However, the 30-year-old is confident and determined to play in her fourth Olympic Games if she qualifies for it. The shuttler is currently ranked 22nd in the "Race to Tokyo" ranking list, and will need to break through the Top 16 to secure a berth at the Olympics.
"I can see great examples in Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Serena doing so well. You have to see how it goes. I'm a fighter and I will get back. When he can do it, why can't I?"said determined Saina Nehwal.