From badminton to tennis, shooting ranges and the wrestling mats, india has much to hope for in the quest for medals at Rio
Here we are, in the year that gives the sports buffs and everyone else on Earth quadrennial kicks. Ah! The Olympics! It’s time for action unlimited as the athletes push themselves to emerge faster, higher, stronger as they strive to make their mark in the Olympic rings, this time blazing in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
The race has already begun for the August gathering. Athletes from the world over are straining every sinew as they scramble to snare the limited slots available to compete on the biggest stage. India is doing well in the qualifying competition though — 60 have sealed spots at the Games and the doors are not shut yet.
The qualification cut-off for badminton is May 5 but Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu should take the two automatic places (awarded to those ranked in top 16) in the women’s singles. Being World No.2, Saina is undoubtedly India’s best bet for a top medal.
On court, she will have to overcome nerves, both physical and mental though. Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa, India’s only shot in women’s doubles, will need to punch above their weight to wear glitter around their necks. On the men’s side Srikanth Kidambi and Parupalli Kashyap should comfortably book their berths in Brazil.
The shooters could provide the big bang the country needs. India’s lone individual Olympic gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra, London Games bronze medallist Gagan Narang, the in-form Jitu Rai, Chain Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Prakash Nanjappa, Apurvi Chandela, Mairaj Ahmad Khan provide India with adequate arsenal to conquer podiums at the shooting ranges, going by their encouraging scores at international tournaments.
The mixed doubles event in tennis also throws up a potential medal. World number one doubles player Sania Mirza would be keen to embellish her shiny trophy cabinet with an Olympic medal, having won titles at every level. Given the zone in which she is playing currently, she has a bright chance. The Indian women’s archery team too holds a lot of promise. Deepika Kumari has just bagged her fourth World Cup silver medal in five years and should take that confidence to Rio and make her rivals quiver.
Wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, a bronze medallist at London 2012, is another toughie whom the country could count on to grapple a medal. Coming to hockey, India’s honour has been restored with the national game fully represented. The women’s hockey team has made a significant breakthrough by qualifying for the Olympics after 36 years while the men made it to the event as reigning Asian Games champions.
Indian athletics is yet to open its medal account at the Olympics but the contingent is set to be sizeable in Rio with 15 having made the cut so far. Of those, shot putter Inderjeet Singh is a heavyweight, literally. That he won the University Games title in 2015 is surely a shot in the arm for Indian sport. Vikas Gowda (discus) and shotputter Manpreet Kaur make up the throws. However, going by Olympic standards podium finish seems a long shot for the distance runners/ walkers — Lalita Babar, Sandeep Kumar, Manish Singh, Khushbir Kaur, Sapna, Tintu Luka, Sudha Singh, O.P. Jaisha and Nitendra Singh Rawat. Hope the ones supported and funded by the Olympic Gold Quest programme prove a point.
At London 2012, India wrested six medals — two silvers and four bronzes — to make it the most successful Olympics medal-wise, doubling the previous record of three medals at the Beijing Games in 2008. Should that progressive pattern hold in Rio, a dozen would be delightful!...