TOKYO: Tokyo Olympics 2020: The stars of India’s best ever Olympic performance

TOKYO: Tokyo Olympics 2020: The stars of India’s best ever Olympic performance

TOKYO: India capped off its best-ever
performance in the Olympics with a haul of seven medals, including a gold.

As the Tokyo Olympics come to a close, a look at the medallists and those who
came within touching distance of glory but couldn’t quite make it to the


They say save the best for last
and for India it came true at the Tokyo Games. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra
became only the second Indian to win an individual gold in the Olympics.

After romanticising stories about “nearly there” for years, India
finally had its first track-and-field medal winner, thanks to Chopra’s throw of

Interestingly, Chopra, the son of a farmer from Khandra village near Panipat in
Haryana, took to athletics to lose weight.

One day, his uncle took him to Shivaji Stadium in Panipat for some running. But
Chopra wasn’t interested in it and almost instantly fell in love with javelin
throw when he saw a few seniors practising at the stadium.

The 23-year-old, a Subedar with 4 Rajputana Rifles in the Indian Army, has been a consistent performer since bursting into the scene with a historic gold in the junior world championships in 2016 with an Under-20 world record of 86.48m which still stands.

His other achievements include gold medals in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, besides the top finish in the 2017 Asian Championships.


The pint-sized weightlifter from Manipuri lifted the spirits of the entire nation as she ended a 21-year wait for a medal in weightlifting, clinching a silver medal in the 49kg category to open India’s account on the very first day of competitions on July 24.

Wearing gold earrings shaped like the Olympic rings, which were a gift from her mother who sold her own jewellery for them five years ago, the 26-year-old lifted a total of 202kg (87kg+115kg), finally exorcising the ghosts of her disastrous outing in the 2016 Rio Games where she had failed to log a single legitimate lift.

Born to a poor family in Nongpok Kakching village about 20 kilometres from Imphal, Chanu’s childhood was spent cutting and collecting wood from the nearby hills, hauling them up by herself, and fetching water from nearby ponds in milk powder cans.

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.


The 23-year-grappler 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.

Born to a farming family, Dahiya is a product of the national capital’s Chhatrasal Stadium, which has already given India two Olympic medallists — Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt.

He rose to prominence only when
he qualified for the Tokyo Games with a bronze medal-winning effort at the 2019
world championship. He has steadily grown in stature ever since, winning the
Asian Championship in 2020 and then defending the title this year.

His father, Rakesh Kumar, would himself carry milk and butter to Chhatrasal
Stadium, about 60km away from his home, every single day without fail to ensure
that his son got the best diet.


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.

The Hyderabad shuttler rose to
fame at the international level in 2014 when she won bronze medals in the world
championship, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Asian Championships.

One of the most consistent performers, Sindhu has returned with medals from
each one of the big-ticket events she has participated in.


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.

It seemed the team was destined to win. How else could one explain the addition
of Simranjeet Singh, who scored a brace in the crucial bronze playoff, when he
wasn’t even a part of the original squad and had been added following the
International Olympic Committee’s decision to allow “alternate
athletes” in team events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Competing in her maiden Olympics,
Lovlina 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 kick boxer, like her two elder sisters, before she
turned to boxing.

A day before she was to leave
with the Olympic-bound boxers group for a training camp to Europe, Borgohain
had contracted COVID-19. But the missed opportunity couldn’t stop her from
having a remarkable campaign in which she upstaged former world champion
Nien-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei in the 69kg category.

With the feat, she became only the third Indian boxer ever, after Vijender
Singh and MC Mary Kom, to finish on the podium at the quadrennial showpiece.


A favourite heading into the
Games, Bajrang 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.

Bajrang has been passionate about wrestling since childhood, and why not, the
sport runs in his blood. His father and elder brother, too, were ardent
practitioners of the sport.

As a kid all he wanted was to
wrestle. Once at a Dangal, when he was about 34kg, Bajrang insisted that he be
allowed to wrestle but the competition was meant for those who weighed about
60kg and to the amazement of everyone, he pinned his opponent, giving a glimpse
of his determination.

Those who were so close yet so far:


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.

After three losses on the trot, everyone had written them off. But a moment of
brilliance by skipper Rani Rampal that led to a late strike by Navneet Kaur in
the game against Ireland kept the team’s quarterfinal hopes alive.

A win against South Africa, that saw Vandana Katariya strike a hat-trick, and a
favourable result helped ensure India’s passage to the quarterfinal, where drag
flick specialist Gurjit Kaur rose to the occasion when it mattered the most,
converting a PC against the mighty Australians.

With the odds stacked firmly against them a brave and determined women’s team
etched its name in the history books by entering its maiden Olympic semifinals.


After an impressive campaign that
saw him race to the semifinals, Deepak Punia was only 10 seconds away from a
medal, but the 22-year-old debutant ended up conceding a take-down in the 86kg
freestyle bronze medal play-off.

Wrestling was just a route that Deepak hoped would find him a good job to help
sustain his family. He was offered the post of a sepoy in the Indian Army back
in 2016 but was told to dream big and not settle for little things.

He took the advice of two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar seriously and has
gradually made his mark. He became a World Cadet champion in 2016 and in 2019
won the junior World title, only the fourth Indian ever to do so.


Aditi Ashok captured the
imagination of the entire country as sports lovers turned on their TV sets in
the wee hours to watch golf, trying their hardest to understand the concepts of
the game.

Ranked 200 in the world, the
23-year-old from Bengaluru competed toe-to-toe against the best golfers in the
world. But, alas it wasn’t meant to be as after coming agonisingly close, Aditi
finished fourth.

Aditi started playing golf at the
age of five. At the Rio Olympics, where she finished 41st, Aditi was the
youngest player.

She had her father as caddie in Rio while it was her mother joining her
in Tokyo.

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