Talking Tokyo

Saturday, 31 July 2021 | Pioneer

Would India’s showing in the Olympics light up the nation’s mood or end in damp squib?

India’s campaign in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics  started on a bright note when weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu won the silver medal on the very first day. Since then, however, it has been the story of only wait, hope and disappointment. Be it the fancied shooters or world No 1 archer Deepika Kumari, no one was able to live up to the billing. The hurt became more acute on Thursday when six-time world champion MC Mary Kom lost her Round of 16 bout. However, on Friday, boxer Lovlina Borgohain reached semifinals of the 69-kg category to assure herself of a medal in her debut games and, later in the evening, India’s biggest medal hope and 2016 silver medallist PV Sindhu also made it into the last four. But the Indian athletes have by and large disappointed more. The contingent was one of the country’s biggest medal hopes but apart from Sourabh Chaudhary in 10m Air pistol individual event, nobody could even qualify for the finals, with the likes of Manu Bhaker, Abhishek Verma, Yashaswini Singh Deswal and Elavenil Valarivan (the last three are world No 1 in their respective categories) failing to live up to the hype.

Also, Deepika Kumari was in red hot form before the Games but, in her third Olympics, the world No 1 was no match for top seed Korean player in the quarterfinals. In the other events, India has had mixed fortunes. Manika Batra (table tennis), Sumit Nagal (tennis), Bhavani Devi (fencing), Chirag Shetty and Satwaiksairaj Rankireddy (badminton) were impressive in their maiden Olympics; veteran Sania Mirza (tennis), B Sai Praneeth (badminton), G Sathiyan (table tennis) disappointed with humiliating first-round exits. One of the few good things has been the Indian men’s hockey team’s form. The eight-time Olympic champions have reached the quarterfinals and the women are also likely to make it to the last eight. Despite losing 1-7 to world No 1 Australia, Manpreet & Co managed to finish second in their pool. They’re now into the knockouts and, from here, anything can happen. Considering the form, it is certainly a great chance for India to end the 41-year wait for a podium finish. In the coming week, Indian wrestlers will start their campaign and there are high hopes from Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia. Also in action will be Amit Panghal, the world No 1 in the 52-kg boxing category.

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