Who will make India proud at Tokyo 2020?

By Saurabh Shankar ·

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are less than a year away and the Indian contingent is beginning to take shape.

With 11 athletes already having qualified, several others are expected to join the elite group once the qualifying process gathers steam in the coming months.

At the previous Olympics in Rio, India won two medals and it is no secret that athletes and fans will be hoping for a better show in Tokyo.

Let’s take a look at some of the medal hopefuls who could help India get there...

Shuttle Queens

PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal celebrate at the 2018 Asian Games

The badminton qualifications are yet to conclude but India’s premier shuttlers PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal find themselves in good stead for Olympic qualification owing to their superior rankings.

They are ranked fifth and eighth respectively as of July 2019, with the top 18 players automatically qualifying for Tokyo 2020.

Both Nehwal and Sindhu have won Olympic medals in the past - a silver at Rio 2016 and a bronze at London 2012 respectively - and are still in the prime of their careers heading into the next Olympics.

The Indian fans will be hopeful for at least one or both of these two shuttlers to return home with more metal.

Shooting For The Stars

Manu Bhaker of India shows her 2018 Youth Olympic Games gold medal

Shooting has been one sport that Indians have performed admirably well in the recent past.

While Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore kick-started a trend in 2004, winning a silver medal in double trap at the Athens Games, Abhinav Bindra took it a notch higher four years later in Beijing, winning India’s first-ever individual gold at the Olympics.

While this trend continued at the 2012 London Games too with Vijay Kumar's silver and Gagan Narang's bronze, Rio 2016 proved to be disappointing for Indian shooting.

Tokyo 2020, however, looks promising once again.

Leading the Indian charge in less than a year from now will be the likes of Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary.

Both gold medal winners at the 2018 Youth Olympics as well as the Commonwealth Games, they remain medal prospects for the nation in the 10m air pistol mixed team event, a category that will debut in Tokyo.

The duo has also performed well as a team, having won a handful of ISSF World Cups and could clinch an Olympic podium finish.

Apart from the mixed team event, Chaudhary has been in exceptional form in his individual event as well, winning gold medals at the 2019 New Delhi as well as the Munich ISSF World Cups.

With a brilliant recent record, the teenager remains a firm favourite for clinching another Olympic medal for the nation.

Boxer's Might

Mary Kom celebrates after winning gold at the 2014 Asian Games

A six-time World Champion and a bronze medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, MC Mary Kom’s list of achievements is a bottomless well.

It’s her hunger to be a world-beater even at the age of 36 which makes this diminutive boxer one of the best in the world.

With an impressive record of never having returned home empty-handed from a Major by her side, the hopes of the nation will be sky-high, if Mary Kom makes it to the Tokyo Games.

Apart from the veteran, train your eyes on Manish Kaushik as well. The 23-year-old has been in stellar form since the past couple of years, winning a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games as well.

Kaushik followed that up with a gold in the Asian Games Test Event, and of late has bagged two podium finishes in European boxing competitions over the past couple of months.

Heading into 2020 Tokyo, the young pugilist would be optimistic of his chances at Olympic glory.

Mat Matters

Vinesh Phogat (right) would aim to win her first Olympic medal at Tokyo 2020

The wrestling qualifiers are yet to begin, but a look at their season so far can give a fair indication of what one can expect from the Indian grapplers later this year and at the Olympics.

Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat are India’s primary hopefuls for medals while eyes will also be on the likes of Sakshi Malik and Sushil Kumar if they can reignite the fire within them when it matters.