After being delayed for almost a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is just a month away. Even though the pandemic continues to rage on causing destruction around the world, this time it seems as if the organizers are determined to go ahead with the Olympics as planned from 23rd July 2021 to 8th August 2021. With the Olympics just around the corner, athletes from across the globe have been sweating it out to realize their Tokyo dreams. And India is not far behind. On World Olympic Day, we look at 10 Indian athletes and their inspiring stories, who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.
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1. Pranati Nayak, who won a bronze in vault at the Asian artistic gymnastic championships in 2019, is set to compete at the Tokyo Olympics after qualifying through the continental quota. The 26-year-old athlete from West Bengal, the second reserve behind Sri Lanka’s Elpitiya Badalge Dona Milka Geh for the Asian quota, became eligible to compete from the zone following the cancellation of the senior Asian championships, scheduled to be held from May 29 in Hangzhou (China), due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Seasoned pro Anirban Lahiri qualified for his second successive Olympic appearance after finishing as the best-placed Indian golfer in the final Tokyo Games Rankings for men released recently. The Indian made the cut at the 60th spot, the last available quota in the Games rankings. India were eligible for one spot and Lahiri was the highest-placed in the latest official world golf rankings at the 340th position. “Best surprise I have got in a while. @Tokyo2020 can’t believe I will have the opportunity once again to represent the tricolor,” Lahiri tweeted.
3. Equestrian Fouaad Mirza sealed his spot in the Tokyo Olympics with a fine show at an event in Poland sometime ago. Mirza achieved the necessary Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) on both his horses, Seigneur Medicott and Dajara, in the CCI44*- Long eventing competition in Baborowko (Poland). Mirza, backed by Embassy International Riding School Bangalore (EIRS), finished second with Seigneur Medicott and third with Dajara. The Bengaluru lad’s route to Olympic qualification was filled with hurdles. The 29-year-old had to overcome lockdowns in his training base of Germany, cancelled events and an injury to Seigneur Medicott. Mirza had earlier earned an Olympic quota berth for India. His exploits at Baborowko helped secure his individual Tokyo berth. Mirza will become the third Indian Olympic equestrian, after Indrajit Lamba (1996) and Imtiaz Anees (2000).
4. Shot-putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with an Asian and national record throw at the Indian Grand Prix 4 in Patiala on a day when the national women’s 4x100m relay team and sprinter Dutee Chand also breached the previous best marks in the country. The 26-year-old Toor, a 2018 Asian Games gold winner, crossed the Olympic qualification mark of 21.10m with a throw of 21.49m, which was his first attempt, and broke his own national record. He also came up with big throws of 21.28m, 21.12m, 21.13m in his third, fourth and fifth efforts, all of them crossing the Olympic qualification mark. The previous national record, which was also in Toor’s name, stood at 20.92m and was set in 2019. “I am very happy to qualify for my first Olympics. Moreover, it was Asian as well as national record,” Toor told PTI after his event.
5. Indian discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur has been immensely successful in the past few months. The 25-year-old from Punjab fought off depression and thoughts of leaving the sport during the Coronavirus imposed restrictions and lockdown last year and came back with a national record throw during the Federation Cup in Patiala during March earlier this year. Her throw of 65.06m was not only a national record but also the first-ever throw over the 65m range by an Indian woman in the history of the sport. Besides, the throw also earned direct qualification to the Tokyo Olympics for her.
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For more information on what was agreed upon at today's five-party meeting: https://t.co/On7tfGKidm
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6. Murali Sreeshankar, born 27 March 1999), commonly known as M Sreeshankar, is an Indian athlete who competes in the long jump event. He holds the national record of 8.26 metres set in 2021. In March 2018, Sreeshankar cleared a 7.99 m jump at the Federation Cup in Patiala. He was named in the Indian contingent for the 2018 Commonwealth Games but had to pull out 10 days before the April event after being diagnosed with appendicitis. Later, he has recovered and now he has qualified for the Olympics.
7. Shivpal Singh is an Indian javelin thrower. He finished eighth at the 2018 Asian Games and won the silver medal at the 2019 Asian Championships. His personal best throw is 86.23 metres, achieved at the 2019 Asian Championships in Doha. In 2016, Shivpal Singh won the men’s javelin throw event at the Budapest Open athletics in Hungary. He finished eighth in the previous edition of the Asian games (2018) as he could only manage one throw off his 3 chances due to an elbow injury. In 2015, he was selected for the junior world championships but was left out of the squad because of the injury.
8. Olympic-bound star Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra produced a below-par effort of 80.96m but still won his event in the Karlstad Grand Prix in Sweden on Tuesday. Chopra began with a throw of 79.07m before hurling the iron spear to 80.96m. His next three attempts were fouls before coming up with a final throw of 77.48m in a mediocre field. On June 10, he had come up with a best effort of 83.18m to win an event in Lisbon, Portugal in his first international competition after more than a year. The 23-year-old Indian had qualified for Tokyo Olympics in January, 2020 in South Africa. The reigning Asian and Commonwealth Games champion holds the national record of 88.07m.
9. Avinash Sable specializes in 3000 metres steeplechase and holds the national record of 8:20.21 set in 2021. After failing to qualify for the 2018 Asian Games due to an ankle injury, Sable broke the 37-year-old national record of 8:30.88 held by Gopal Saini, by clocking 8:29.80 at the 2018 National Open Championships in Bhubaneswar. He set a new national record of 8:28.94 in March 2019 at the Federation Cup in Patiala, as a result of which he qualified for the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships and 2019 World Athletics Championships. He became the first male steeplechaser from India to qualify for the World Championships since Deena Ram (1991). Sable won the silver medal at the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships in Doha, his debut international event, with a timing of 8:30.19. He further improved the national record to 8:21.37 in the final, finishing 13th out of 16 runners, and qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
10. Bhawna Jat is an Indian racewalker who was the former Indian national record holder for women’s 20 kilometres race walk at 1 hour 29 minutes 54 seconds set in February 2020. Between 2014 and 2015, Jat won medals in zonal and national junior level competitions. In 2016, she landed a job with the Indian Railways as a ticket collector in Howrah, West Bengal. At the National Open Championships in February 2020, Jat broke the national record by clocking 1:29:54 and qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics which had a qualification standard of 1:31:00. The timing was an improvement of over eight minutes from her previous personal best set in October 2019 and over 23 minutes from her February 2019 National Open Championships time.