Tokyo 2020 in sight, Indian athletes gear up for a hectic period

Ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo later this year, Indian athletes will have to make it through a demanding qualification period.

2020 is all set to be an exciting year for sports fans across the world. While the 2020 Olympics in July-August will undoubtedly be the highlight, the first half of the season will see athletes giving it their all to make the Olympic cut.

We list out a few events that the Indian Olympic fans should have an eye on in the coming months.

Wrestling

The past decade has seen wrestling become one of India’s most cherished Olympic disciplines. With medals to back this claim at every edition since Beijing 2008, the Indian grapplers have only grown from strength to strength with every passing year.

And it won’t be a surprise if India ends up sending their biggest (in terms of participants) wrestling squad for Tokyo Olympics 2020.

With the likes of Indian wrestlers Bajrang Punia (freestyle, 65kg), Deepak Punia (freestyle, 86kg), Ravi Dahiya (freestyle, 57kg) and Vinesh Phogat (women, 53kg) already sealing a quota place in their respective categories with wins at the World Wrestling Championships last year, the eyes will be on the others when the qualification events roll out in 2020.

The Indian wrestlers will have two chances to book a quota place in the available categories, the first one at the Asian Olympic qualifiers in China from March 27029, and the other at the World Olympic Qualifiers in Sofia, Bulgaria from April 30-May 3.

Boxing

2019 ended with the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) finalising on the squad to be sent for the Asia & Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which has been scheduled to be held from February 3–14 in China’s Wuhan.

The sum-total of eight weight categories from the men’s event (52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 69kg, 75kg, 81kg, 91kg, and 91+ kg) will have as many as 41 places up for grabs at the Asia and Oceania qualifiers. The women’s event will have five weight categories (51kg, 57kg, 60kg, 69kg, and 75kg) and a total of 22 places to fight for in the Asia and Oceania qualifiers.

The World Olympic Qualifiers tournament in Paris (May 13-24) would be having separate 31-35 places for the men’s events, and 19-21 places for the women’s.

Athletics

India has seen three qualifications in athletics so far, with KT Irfan qualifying for the men's 20 km walk, Avinash Sable in men’s 3000m steeplechase, and the mixed 4×400m relay event.

However, with the likes of top Indian athletes Neeraj Chopra, Hima Das and Dutee Chand all aiming to come back stronger in the new year, India could see some qualifications in the upcoming events like Diamond Leagues, Federation Cup, the Indian Grand Prixs, and the various international and domestic meets that will be considered till the end of June.

There are 24 events in athletics for men’s and 23 in women’s, which doesn’t have the 50m walk event. The process of qualification has different entry marks across all the events, e.g., javelin throw having 85m that Neeraj Chopra will have to target; 11.15 seconds in the 100m and 22.80 seconds in the 200m event that Chand has to aim for. Das will have to cover her preferred 400m in 51.35 seconds.

3x3 Basketball

Making its debut at the Tokyo Games, 3x3 basketball is one of the events that everyone will be eagerly looking forward to. The fast-paced micro version of the game has its qualifiers for Tokyo Olympics 2020 scheduled for March in India with as many as 20 teams expected to vie for the three slots available in each of the men’s and the women’s categories.

Archery

There are 128 qualifying places available for archery at the 2020 Olympics — 64 for men and 64 for women. India, however, has been quite lively in spite of the World Archery suspending the national federation.

Despite the country’s brilliant stint at the Asian Archery Championships in Bangkok, which saw them win one gold, two silver and four bronze medals, the athletes had to compete under a neutral flag. However, it wasn’t enough to stop the archers.

Deepika Kumari grabbed an individual quota for Tokyo in the Continental Olympic Qualifier even though her team failed, while the men’s team of Tarundeep Rai, Atanu Das and Pravin Jadhav made the Olympic cut in the World Championships at Den Bosch. Their only chance of getting their women’s team in the Summer Olympics will come during the final team and individual tournament in Berlin, scheduled in May-June 2020.

Badminton

The qualification period for badminton at Tokyo Olympics 2020 started on April 29, 2019, and will end on April 26, 2020. And India will have to choose from the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings list, which has been scheduled to be published on April 30, 2020.

The Badminton Association of India (BAI) will be sending their first two ranked shuttlers from the top 16 for the men’s and women’s singles. For the doubles event, the duo will be chosen provided both pairs are ranked in the top eight, which will be applicable for the men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.

Hence, the Indian shuttlers will be having some big series in the initial stages of the year to improve their ranking like Malaysia Masters, Indonesia Masters, Thailand Masters, All England Open, India Open, Malaysia Open, and Singapore Open.

Tennis

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be seeing as many as 172 players competing across five events: singles and doubles for both men and women, and mixed as well.

Like badminton, tennis’ singles selection procedure will be based on players’ world rankings that will be released on June 8, 2020. A player will need to follow the requirements concerning the Davis Cup or Fed Cup teams in order to be eligible for the Olympics. There will be four players per NOC.

Aquatics

Traditionally, aquatics has not been India’s strong suit at the Summer Olympics, with athletes making it to the Games only under the Universality quota. 

While the likes of Srihari Nataraj, Advait Page, Virdhawal Khade and Sajan Prakash do provide a sense of optimism clocking the Olympic Qualifying Time (OQT), it could prove to be a bit difficult for the Indians at the various FINA recognised meets in the new year.

In that case, the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) is expected to receive an invitation under the universality quota.

Table Tennis

Table tennis is another discipline that exudes hope, given the Indian athletes’ recent form. Be it Sathiyan Gnanasekaran or Achanta Sharath Kamal or Manika Batra, the Indian paddlers have performed admirably well in the season gone by. 

The men’s team will be hoping to continue the fine form 2019 that saw them rise to the eighth spot in the world rankings, their best-ever showing, when the World Qualification Event gets underway in Gondomar, Portugal from January 22-26.

Meanwhile, the Indian aces will have an opportunity to book their place in the individual events at the Asian Qualification Event in Bangkok (April 6-12) as well as the World Singles Qualification Tournament in Doha (May 28-31) later this year.

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