India at Tokyo 2020 Gold winner Neeraj Chopra, wrestlers shine in best-ever campaign, shooters draw blank

Tokyo 2020: Never before did India manage 7 medals at the Olympic Games but there were also some shocking performances from its athletes, particularly the shooters who failed to grab a single medal despite sending its biggest squad at the Games this year.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • India won 7 medals at Tokyo 2020, the nation’s best-ever
  • Neeraj Chopra ended India’s 13-year wait for an Olympics gold with his historic javelin throw
  • Shooters and archers were the biggest letdowns for Team India with repeated failures in their events

Neeraj Chopra provided a fitting end to India’s best-ever Olympics campaign when he clinched the gold medal by decimating his opponents in the men’s javelin final at Tokyo 2020 on Saturday.

Never before did India manage 7 medals at the Olympic Games but there were also some shocking performances from its athletes, particularly the shooters who failed to grab a single medal despite sending its biggest squad at the Games this year.

Mirabai Chanu’s weightlifting silver on the very first day got India off to the perfect start which was then followed by medals from Lovlina Borgohain, PV Sindhu, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Bajrang Punia, Indian men’s hockey team and finally, Neeraj Chopra brought the proceedings to a glorious end when he threw the javelin 87.58m to finish on top of the podium.

Athletes from weightlifting, athletics, hockey, badminton, wrestling and boxing brought great joy to Indian sports fans but the contingent struggled big time in shooting and archery for the second Olympics in succession.

So let’s take a look back at the best and worst of India’s campaign at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
What Neeraj Chopra did on August 7 cannot be described in just words. His historic feat ended India’s drought in athletics and boy, what a performance it was.

23-year-old Neeraj became only the 2nd individual gold medalist in India’s Olympic history when he won the Men’s Javelin event at the Tokyo Games on Saturday. The Asian Games champion blew away the rest of the field, including some established throwers like Germany Johannes Vetter, to win Gold medal with a best throw of 87.58m.

He had missed a berth to Rio Games and his route to Tokyo Games was not straightforward as the youngster had picked up an injury in last year only to return to competition this year. There were doubts over training amid pandemic but Neeraj overcame all odds to script history on Saturday.

Mirabai Chanu became the first-ever Indian athlete to win a medal on the first day of the Olympics when she clinched the silver in the 49kg weightlifting final to end the nation’s 21-year wait for a medal in the sport.

The 26-year-old lifted a total of 202kg (87+115) to finally exorcise the ghosts of her disastrous outing in the 2016 Rio Olympics where she had failed to register a single lift.

The 2017 world champion had initially wanted to be an archer but fate had different plans, and reading about fellow Manipuri the legendary N.Kunjarani Devi’s exploits in the weightlifting arena all over the world, inspired Chanu to take up the sport and the rest is history.One of the strongest medal contenders heading to the Tokyo Olympics, PV Sindhu delivered once again. This time snatching a bronze.

The 26-year-old etched her name among the all-time greats after winning women’s singles bronze medal to add to the silver she won at Rio de Janeiro five years back. She became the first Indian woman and second overall from the country to achieve the feat.

Such was her dominance at the Tokyo Games that she dropped only two games, both in the semifinal loss to Tai Tzu Ying, in six matches.

India had bagged just 1 medal in wrestling at the Rio Games five years ago but this time the contingent from this sport will return with 2 Olympic medals thanks to Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Bajrang Punia.

Ravi Kumar Dahiya, born in the Nahri village of the Sonepat district in Haryana, stormed to the final of the men’s 57kg freestyle event without any fuss. Although, he fetched a silver, his immense strength and stamina along with technical prowess impressed one and all.

Bajrang Punia on the other hand, didn’t quite live up to the sky-high expectations of becoming the first Indian wrestler to win the gold, but the 27-year-old did return from Tokyo with a bronze medal, an impressive feat in a nation starved for success at the grandest sporting spectacle

This Olympiad will always be remembered for reigniting India’s love for hockey thanks to the brilliant performances of the men’s and women’s teams.

Four decades of pain and disappointment was washed away as the Indian men’s hockey team clinched the bronze, the country’s 12th Olympic medal in the sport that came after a gap of 41 years.

It wasn’t gold but it was enough to spearhead the revival of the sport in a country that attaches so much sentimental value to it.

After the initial hiccup which saw the team being steam-rolled 1-7 by Australia in their second game, Manpreet Singh and his men made a strong comeback only losing to eventual champions Belgium. While Manpreet inspired the team with his leadership, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh had a phenomenal tournament, standing like a wall when the opposition mounted an attack.

The women’s team on the other hand, couldn’t win a medal for the country but they won a billion-plus hearts after matching their best-ever performance at the Games. From a bottom-place finish at Rio 2016, the Indian women’s team capped a remarkable journey at Tokyo Olympics, finishing a creditable fourth.

Although the team’s dream of securing its maiden Olympic medal remained unfulfilled as it lost 3-4 to Great Britain in the closely contested bronze medal play-off, the side recorded its best ever finish at the Games.

Lovlina Borgohain’s bronze ended India’s 9-year wait for a medal in the sport at the Olympics. Competing in her maiden Olympics, Borgohain carved a niche for herself in the history of Indian women’s boxing by clinching a bronze — India’s lone boxing medal at the Tokyo Games.

The 23-year-old, who was brought up in Baro Mukhia village of Assam’s Golaghat district, used to be a kickboxer, like her two elder sisters, before she turned to boxing. And fortunately for India, the decision proved to be the right one as Lovlina became only the third Indian boxer ever, after Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom, to finish on the podium at the quadrennial showpiece.

India’s biggest failure at the Tokyo Games came in shooting. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) sent a 15-member strong team for the Olympics but none of them could clinch a medal for the country after a string of poor performances.

A lot of hopes were pinned on the highly accomplished Manu Bhaker, Anjum Moudgil, Rahi Sarnobat, Abhishek Verma, Apurvi Chandela, Tejaswini Sawant, Elavvenil Valarivan, Divyansh Singh Panwar, Deepak Kumar, Saurabh Chaudhary, Sanjeev Rajput and Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar but everyone drew blanks in their respective events to return home empty-handed.

Organisational failures and the fallout between national coach Jaspal Rana and Manu Bhaker contributed to India’s poor show in shooting.

There were more misses than hits for the Indian archers who ended up being “just tourists” in Tokyo, returning from the Olympics without a medal yet gain. Deepika Kumari could not earn India an elusive Olympic medal but the most decorated Indian archer became the first Indian to make the individual quarters.

But the silver lining came from debutant Pravin Jadhav, the son of a wage labourer from the drought-hit Satara district of Maharashtra. Not only the 25-year-old topped among the Indians in the ranking round, the Army archer showed fine shooting before going down to world number one Brady Ellison in round two.

Atanu Das provided the “oh moment” for Indians when he knocked out former Olympic and world champion Oh Jin Hyek to make pre-quarterfinals for a second successive time in the Games but only to lose to five-time Olympic veteran Takaharu Furukawa.

The biggest letdown was the power archery couple — Deepika Kumari and Atanu Das — who were not able to overcome the pressure factor despite having the experience of five Olympics in between them.

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