There has been a steady rise in the number of athletes who have represented India at the Olympics in the last three editions of the quadrennial sporting extravaganza.
In the Beijing 2008 Olympics, a total of 57 athletes in 12 sports were part of the Indian contingent while four years later in London, the number rose to 83, which included 60 men and 23 women in 13 disciplines.
The Rio 2016 Olympics saw India send its largest ever delegation that consisted of 117 athletes, 63 men and 54 women, across 15 sports.
And all signs indicate that India will continue to add to the trend at the Tokyo Olympics next year. India have already won more than 70 spots for the Tokyo Olympics with many more still in the fray.
The Coronavirus pandemic had disrupted the qualification events from March 2020, with even the Olympics forced to be delayed by a year. With sports slowly coming back to life across the globe, the qualification events are also set to resume with athletes desperate to seal a spot in the Olympics which will begin on 23 July, 2021.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has revised its qualification period deadline to 29 June 2021 though international federations will be able to set their own deadline prior to this date.
Numerous big Indian athletes are yet to seal qualification for the Olympics. Let us have a look at the five top Indian athletes who are yet to seal their spot.
Star Indian sprinter Dutee Chand has an uphill task to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Chand was the first female athlete from India in 36 years to qualify for the 100m event at the Olympics (Rio 2016). She breached the Olympic qualification mark of 11.32 seconds to qualify for the event four years back.
However, this time around, the fastest Indian woman sprinter has a tough task to qualify as the qualification mark for Tokyo has been set at 11.15 seconds. Interestingly, Chand has a personal best timing of 11.22 seconds (also a national record), which she set at the National Open Athletics Championships last year.
Chand did start 2020 on a positive note, setting a new national university record. The Odisha star, representing the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology at the meet, bagged the gold medal with a timing of 11.49 seconds - which is way below the Olympics qualifying standard.
She will also try to achieve qualification to Tokyo through the women’s 4x100m relay team which has a couple of qualification events coming up in April and May 2021.
Hima Das, the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal in a track event (400m) at the IAAF World U20 Championships in 2018, is yet to make her maiden appearance in the Games. She is however confident about qualifying for the Toyko Olympics.
Das also holds the National Record in 400 meter (50.79 seconds). Fondly known as the Dhing Express, Das had to switch to 200m from 400m, due to a lower back injury which has been troubling her for some time.
The qualification scenario for the athletics was disrupted due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The qualifications for the Olympics was frozen by the World Athletics, due to the pandemic, till November 30.
Ace Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu have won Olympic medals for the country in the past and will be hoping to do so once again in Tokyo.
While Saina won bronze at the London 2012 Olympics, Sindhu did one better in 2016, winning the silver.
The pandemic forced a number of badminton events to be called off or postponed this year, thus extending the wait for Indian shuttlers to qualify for Tokyo Olympics. The Badminton World Federation rankings list will allocate the spots by April 29, 2021.
The top-16 singles players and top-8 doubles pairs in the ‘Race to Tokyo’ rankings will automatically make the Tokyo Olympics cut.
While Sindhu, currently ranked seventh in the world, is expected to qualify with ease, Saina (20th) will need to up her performances in the qualification events lined up in 2021.
However, a number of injuries has served as a constant setback for her. Nehwal is targeting the BWF Asian Tour which has been postponed to January 2021 to make a comeback and revive her bid to earn a place at Tokyo.
The 2016 Olympics wrestling bronze medallist Sakshi Malik (58kg category) is one of the biggest names who is still to qualify for Tokyo Olympics. Malik began 2020 on a poor note as she suffered a shock defeat during the wrestling trials in Lucknow earlier this year.
Her hopes to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics has, however, been revived with the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) set to conduct fresh trials early next year to select the team that will represent India in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers.
It will also mean that Malik will get another shot at qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
Pooja Dhanda, the 2018 World Wrestling Championship bronze medallist (57kg category) is another big name missing out on the list of those who have qualified for Tokyo Olympics.
Dhanda's hopes of qualifying for Tokyo were dashed after she lost in the wrestling trials earlier this year. Her route ahead will be similar to Sakshi Malik, as the duo will target a place in the Indian team for the Asian Olympic Qualifiers.
The Asian Olympic Qualifier will be held in March, 2021.