In the last one week, two Indians have qualified for the2016 Rio Olympic Games. After Narsingh Pancham Yadav, Yogeshwar Dutt and Hardeep Singh, Sandeep Tomar became the fourth wrestler from India to qualify for Rio. The other spot was grabbed by Dattu Baban Bhokanal in rowing after he won a silver medal in the finals of men’s single sculls at the 2016 FISA Asian and Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta in South Korea. With this, 87 Indians have already booked their Olympic berths in 43 events. However, this figure includes 32 men and women representing India in field hockey. More athletes could find themselves on the plane to Rio after the conclusion of the 20th Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championships, which is currently underway in New Delhi.
India are not a nation with any creditworthy performance in Olympic Games’ history. Until 1960 Rome Olympics, Indian hockey team was regarded invincible but their run of six consecutive gold medal wins came to an end with a defeat in the final against Pakistan at Rome. India won Olympic hockey gold twice more in 1964 Tokyo Olympics and in 1980 at Moscow but since then, hockey has changed a lot and so has its dominance. European nations and Australia play much better and India have remained on the fringes with occasional wins here and other. As for performance in other fields, the only other gold was won by Abhinav Bindra in men’s 10m air rifle shooting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, after 2012 London Games, India came home with their best medal tally ever, comprising of 2 silvers and 4 bronzes. Now Indian athletes and other sportsperson will be eying the Rio Games with plenty of hopes.
Sandeep Tomar participated in 57 kg freestyle category of World Qualifying Wrestling tournament in the Mongolian city of Ulaanbaatar and rode his luck after losing to Azerbaizan’s Mirjala Hasan-Zada in the semifinals. In the bronze medal match Sandeep defeated Moldova’s Alexandru Chirtoaca 10-0 and thus secured the Rio berth. Sandeep had an impressive outing until he suffered a heart-breaking defeat on points against Mirjalal despite the score being 8-8. The Sonepat wrestler joined Narsingh Yadav, Yogeshwar Dutt and Harjit Singh, who had already qualified in 67 kg freestyle, 65 kg freestyle and 98 kg Greco-Roman categories respectively. Of these, Narsingh Yadav may be forced to cede his berth to London Olympic silver medalist Sushil Kumar.
In rowing, Indian Army’s Dattu Baban Bhokanal secured the Rio birth last Monday, after winning a silver medal in the finals of men’s single sculls at 2016 FISA Asian and Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta in South Korea. There were other Indian rowers in the competition, but none of them could finish within the first three in their events and missed Olympic qualification.
Over the next few days, some Indian athletes could achieve Rio Olympic qualification marks, when the 20th Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championship ends. Among the promising names, 18-year old Neeraj Chopra has the best credential in Javelin. Neeraj won the gold at the South Asian Games with a PB of 82.23 meters, a distance 77cm short of the 83m qualification mark. OP Jaisha and Sudha Singh have already qualified for the women’s marathon but these two will attempt participation in two other events. Jaisha is running 1500m at Delhi while Sudha is a 3000m steeplechase contender. In the Delhi event, Ankit Sharma and Kumarvel Premkumar will be trying to secure men’s long-jump slots for Rio; 28-year old Mayookha Jhonny will be looking for Olympic tickets in women’s triple jump and long jump; MR Poovamma and Arokia Rajiv are keen to secure women’s and men’s 400m berths; 2014 Commonwealth Games Bronze medalist Arpinder Singh will try to earn men’s triple jump berth.
India have their best chance in shooting, where 9 men and 3 women will try to earn medals for India. Among men, 2008 Games gold medalist Abhinav Bindra will vie for his second medal in 10m air rifle; Gagan Narang is taking part in 10m air rifle, 50m rifle prone and 50m rifle 3 positions; Kynan Chenai and Manavjit Singh Sandhu will be seen in the Trap; Mairaj Ahmad Khan is in the Skeet event; Prakash Nanjappa in 50m pistol; Jitu Rai in 10m air and 50m pistol events; Chain Singh in 50m rifle prone and 50m rifle 3 positions and Gurpreet Singh in 10m air pistol and 25m rapid fire pistol events. Among women, India will be represented by Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul in 10m air rifle and Heena Sidhu in 10m air pistol and 25m pistol events.