The Indian contingent must enter the Tokyo Olympics with growing expectations of returning with its best medal to date, even as the pandemic devastates their drugs and mental health. Renowned boxer MC Mary Kom and men’s hockey team skipper Manpreet Singh will carry the Indian flag at the opening ceremony.
The games are held in an environment of fear, and athletes must constantly monitor their health and also focus on the task, as the cases of Covid-19 continue to increase in Games Village.
Against the backdrop of the negativity of the majority of Japanese citizens, who keep their fingers crossed for the Games and do not allow spectators to the seats, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government continue with the four-year exhibition, knowing that their decision is not to be respected.
But for athletes who have trained hard for five years, thoughts of a pandemic will be set aside as they focus on the task at hand, which is to ensure their best performance and win medals for their respective countries.
With India sending a record number of athletes to the Games, this time the expectations are huge.
Over the years, the country has held a terrible record at the four-year show, as evidenced by the draw of 28 medals – nine gold, seven silver and 12 bronze medals for over 100 years of participation in the mega event.
Glorious days of Indian hockey
After the glorious days of hockey, which yielded eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals from 1928 to 1980 (except 1976), Abhinav Bindra gave a huge boost to India’s aspirations by winning historic individual gold in the 10- meter air rifle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
With their aspirations fueled by Bindra’s historic gold and the funds pumped by the government to train them for the 2010 British Community Games in New Delhi, India had its best medal in 2012 in London.
Although the gold medal proved elusive, India collected six medals – two silver medals through shooters Vijay Kumar and Sushil Kumar and four bronze medals – boxer MC Mary Kom (female fly), shuttle Saina Neval (female single), wrestler Yogeshwar Dut Men Free style 60 kg) and shooter Gagan Narang (men’s air rifle 10 m).
However, the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro turned out to be a disaster, as India managed to win only two medals – a silver from the shuttle PV Sindhu and a bronze from the competitor Sakshi Malik (freestyle for women 58 kg). Archers, weightlifters and boxers, who were advertised as promising for medals, were flattered to deceive.
Archers carry most of their hopes for medals in Tokyo
This time in Tokyo, the Indian Olympic Association and the Ministry of Youth and Sports are expecting a double-digit medal. The government has invested a lot of money and effort through the Olympic podium target scheme, arranging infrastructure, equipment, training and education of foreign experts and excursions for all those who qualified for the Olympics – even during the pandemic.
And Indian athletes have also raised hopes through their excellent performances in international competitions since the Rio Olympics.
This, says MM Somaya, a member of the Moscow gold medal team in 1980, is the main reason for the high expectations.
“India must win medals in double digits (figure). Archers, archers, wrestlers and boxers have achieved good results in the last two years. If they manage to reproduce the same form, they must win medals. They must receive medals quickly acclimatize to the atmosphere at the Olympics, which is very different from other international events, “Somaya told IANS.
Just like in 2016, shooters carry most of their hopes for a medal, as at least 10 of the 15-member team have performed extremely well in international competitions over the past few years.
“If we evaluate the performance in the last four years, from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio onwards, rifle and pistol shooters are equally capable of winning medals, unlike before, when rifle shooters were favorites. I’m sure the rifle and pistol he has to wear between 2-3 medals in number, “said Vijay Kumar.
Vijay selects pistol shooters Saurabh Chaudhari, Manu Baker, Rahi Sarnobat, rifle shooters Dviyansh Singh Panwar, Anjum Moudgil and mixed doubles teams as among the best medal contenders for India.
Panghal, Mary Kom hopes for medals for India
Amit Panghal, the world’s first, is a clear favorite among men in the fly, while Vikas Krishan and Satish Kumar are other hopes. In the women’s section, multiple world champion MC Mary Kom will hope to add to her bronze medal from London.
“We know we have high expectations and we also have high expectations. Our boxers have performed at the highest level in the last few world championships for both men and women and we have won medals in the Olympic weightlifting,” said Indian boxing director Santiago Nieva. she had told IANS before leaving for Tokyo.
Wrestler Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia are among the contenders in their respective weight categories. Byrang is our top wrestler, winner of medals from the World Championships and the British Commonwealth and the Asian Games, while Vinez had to retire from the race with a painful injury in Rio de Janeiro. Now Vinesh, the medalist of the British Community and the Asian Games, has a chance to prove her potential with a medal in Tokyo.
The men’s hockey team is also considered a medal prospect, thanks to its high ranking and strong performance in the FIH Pro League.
“I’m sure this time (the men’s hockey team) will do it this time. They’ve been doing well for the last five years. Fitness is their biggest asset. At the time, we didn’t have the support system they have now.
“This team has done wonders, won the hearts of millions of fans with its latest performances, especially the Champions Trophy (in 2016 and 2018) and the results of the World League finals (2015 and 2017). I know they can do it this time,” he said. Dharaj Pilay, who has represented the country at four Olympic Games and four World Cups.
Former hockey goalkeeper AB Subbiah has agreed. He hoped that just like hockey teams, other athletes would do well in Tokyo.
“The people of India are looking forward to a good performance from our athletes in Tokyo. I hope that both men’s and women’s hockey teams can lead the way for the rest of the contingent.”
This seems to be the prevailing mood – both in the country and in the Indian camp in Tokyo – high expectations and high aspirations.