All is set for the Olympic Games to begin in Tokyo on Friday amid the pandemic gloom. India has sent its biggest ever contingent of 120, with shooters, boxers and wrestlers expected to rake in medals this time.
Amid the hope of some good sport hangs the fear of COVID-19. Tokyo, one of the most densely populated cities of the world, is logging 1, 000 cases everyday. Though just a few of them are from the Olympics, the numbers are enough to spread fear and concern among participants and organisers.
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What is usually seen as the biggest carnival of sports, will this time be held with sparse spectators but the organisers are looking at the brighter side. "It is a recipe...for overcoming a crisis and addressing a crisis, and after the Games, that message of hope will translate into a message of confidence," said IOC President Thomas Bach on Wednesday night.
Let's take a look at what the prospects of the Indian contingent, representing a nation of 1.3 billion, are:
*India has so far bagged just 28 Olympic medals since making its debut in 1900. That tally included one individual gold that Abhinav Bindra won in 2008.
*The Indian contingent of 120 -- 68 men and 52 women -- are hoping for a first-ever double digit figure in the medals tally.
* Leading the charge are 15 shooters, who are mostly young but have several international successes to their credit in the past two years.
* Manu Bhaker (19), Elavenil Valarivan (20), Divyansh Singh Panwar (18), and Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (20) are the names from whom medal hopes are high.
* On the other side is a weightlifting champ Mirabai Chanu (49kg). The 26-year-old's Rio Olympics outing five year's ago did not end too well -- she failed to record a single legitimate lift -- but she has come a long way since.
* She has been a world champion (2017) and a Commonwealth Games champion (2018) and also holds the world record in clean and jerk.
* Archer Deepika Kumari is another medal hope. With husband Atanu Das, a mixed team archery medal is being seen as a real possibility for India.
* Holding hope for India are the boxers. World number one Amit Panghal (52kg), six-time world champion M C Mary Kom (51kg), former Asian Games champion Vikas Krishan (69kg) being the strongest medal hopes.
* Also in the fray for India are eight wrestlers. The star duo of Bajrang Punia (65kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53kg) are very strong contenders for a medal. Deepak Punia (86kg), who was a world championships silver-medallist in 2019, could emerge as a dark horse from the Games.
* The two hockey teams -- Men's team led by Manpreet Singh and women's led by Rani Rampal -- are also expected to make a mark.
* World champion P V Sindhu is also looking strong for a second Olympic medal of her career.
* The country also has representation in fencing (C A Bhavani Devi) and equestrian (Fouaad Mirza) for the very first time.
So, fingers crossed, one hopes that the country's Olympic medal tally wll cross double digits this time.