To do list: Major sports in which India awaits Olympics debut

India’s C. A. Bhavani Devi could make history by becoming the first-ever fencer from the country to land an Olympic berth.

India has garnered 28 medals in their 120-year-long Olympic Games history so far, but their area of expertise didn’t really span over a range of sports for the longest time.

And while the once hockey aces have resorted to shooting, wrestling, badminton and more for improving their medal tally, there is still a host of sporting disciplines in which the country is yet to attain Olympic qualification.

Here is the Olympic Games list of sports where India has never managed to qualify, so far.

Volleyball 

India has been playing volleyball for a long time now. The Volleyball Federation of India was formed in 1951, 13 years before volleyball became an Olympic sport in the Tokyo 1964 Games.

Though India has been a tough opponent at the Asian Volleyball Championships since the very beginning, the team’s earliest achievements in the sport came at the 1958 Asian Games, where they had won the bronze medal in Seoul.

After both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams won a gold medal in their respective categories at the 2019 South Asian Games, India looked a promising prospect for qualifying at the Tokyo Olympics.

However, consecutive losses to Qatar and South Korea meant India were out of the Tokyo Olympic Asian qualification quite early.

Fencing 

Fencing has been a regular sport in India for long now, although it was recognized by the Indian government only in 1997.

The Fencing Association of India (FAI) is recognized by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) as one of its National Sports Association members and has been conducting competitions across all age groups.

Fencing has been a part of the modern Olympic Games since 1896, and after all these barren years India has a real chance of seeing a representative in the form of Bhavani Devi.

The 26-year-old has been turning heads after she first won a gold medal at the 2017 Tournoi Satellite Fencing Championship held in Iceland, which also made her the first Indian fencer to win a gold in an international fencing event.

The Tamil Nadu girl has to see off two round-of-32 finishes at the World Cup fencing events in Athens and Belgium to become the first Indian fencer ever to qualify for the Olympics. However, the events are now halted owing to the upsurge in coronavirus outbreak.

Rugby 

With the very first official rugby match in India dated to as early as 1872, the sport hasn’t really been alien to the nation. However, the Rugby sevens, which replaced the 15-a-side Rugby since the 2016 Olympics, is a relatively new sport in the country.

India had gained an automatic qualification at the 2010 Commonwealth Games as the host nation into the Sevens tournament. However, playing in Group B along with giants South Africa, Wales and Tonga, the team finished fourth.

They have taken numerous baby steps since then. Their most recent feat was at the 2019 Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy, which was a qualification event for the Asian Rugby Sevens Series that in turn paved the way for the Tokyo Olympics qualification.

India finished second behind Singapore after getting seeded into Pool C and the side ended the continental tournament by beating Indonesia 24-14 in the Plate final. However, they were unable to qualify for the Asian Rugby Sevens Series.

Handball

India has been playing handball for nearly 50 years now since Jagat Singh Lohan established the Handball Federation of India during the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

Over the years, the national federation has become members of the Asian Handball Federation (AHF), the International Handball Federation (IHF), the Commonwealth Handball Association and South Asian Handball Federation.

The national handball team’s recent exploits have been a silver medal for the men’s team and a gold medal for the women’s team at the 2019 South Asian Games. However, they are yet to leave at a footprint at the Olympics.

Indian men’s handball team could only finish third after Qatar and Saudi Arabia at the Asian Qualification Event’s preliminary round of the Tokyo Olympics. The women’s team couldn’t reach the qualifiers.

Taekwondo

Though Taekwondo has been introduced into the Olympics as a medal sport only in 2000 at the Sydney Games, it has prevailed in India as a sport since the 1960s.

The Taekwondo Federation of India was founded in 1976 and it got affiliated with the World Taekwondo Federation, the Asian Taekwondo Union and the Indian Olympic Association by 1985.

The nation has seen steady growth in quality in the sport over the years and has been superior at the continental level. India’s most recent feat in Taekwondo came in the 2019 South Asian Games in Kathmandu where India won as many as nine medals across all the categories.

India, however, still awaits a chance to qualify for the Olympics in Taekwondo. The Asian Olympic qualifying tournament was moved from China’s Wuxi to Jordan’s Amman owing to the escalation of coronavirus cases and the new dates are yet to be announced.

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