#1YearToGo to Tokyo 2020: Indian athletes want to rise and shine in Japan

With sports gradually restarting and the Games a year away, India’s top sports stars are getting ready mentally and physically.
By Rahul Venkat

A year from now, on July 23, 2021, the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo will host the opening ceremony of the 32nd edition of the Summer Olympics.

Representing their country at what is the biggest sports event in the world is one of the proudest moments in an athlete's career and a huge honour.

Needless to say, the pride is accompanied by the pressure of doing well and sportspersons around the world prepare well in advance, ensuring that they are in the best shape, both physically and mentally.

With the Tokyo Olympics now a year away, Indian athletes are back in the competitive mindset, trying to ensure that they arrive for the Games in the best shape both physically and mentally.

Palpable excitement in the hockey camp

With eight golds, one silver and two bronze medals, the Indian hockey men’s team were once the undisputed kings at the Olympics.

Since the gold at the Moscow 1980 Olympics, the side has not managed to step onto the podium and the Tokyo Olympics is widely believed to be the Indian hockey men’s team’s best chance at glory in a long while.

Indian men are currently fourth in the world rankings and with their new, attacking style of hockey and ably led by Manpreet Singh, the youthful team, with a balanced dose of experience, has grabbed the spotlight in recent times.

“The Olympics is the biggest and most special tournament, unlike any other event,” was how SV Sunil described it to the Olympic Channel.

“We are not nervous, rather more excited to step on that turf.”

The Indian hockey forward, who made his Olympics debut at London 2012, is eager to get back the momentum they had built in the months before the COVID-19 break.

“It will probably take us two months to get back into the rhythm as a team. All of us worked hard at the national camp in Bengaluru the past few months and it allowed us to work better on our strategies and plans,” SV Sunil added.

Detailed preparation for India's shooting team

The India shooting team will travel to Tokyo in unparalleled numbers with huge expectations that they will bring home an unprecedented array of medals.

The shooting contingent is possibly the toughest to pick for the Tokyo Olympics, with several Indian shooters performing at their best and staking their claim to be included amongst the 15 quota places already secured.

For 26-year-old Anjum Moudgil, Tokyo will be her debut at the Olympics and she has chartered her course with precision.

“My coach has given me a structured chart which details out every aspect – when I need to train intensively, when I can do light training and also when I can take a break,” the Indian shooter told the Olympic Channel.

“There was a similar one in place last year but once the postponement was announced, I decided to focus on being mentally ready and also did some basic physical exercises at home in Chandigarh.”

The first step in that plan will be to get back in the competitive groove at the national camp which is likely to begin at the end of the month in New Delhi.

The Arjuna awardee, ranked fourth in the 10m Air Rifle, looks at the countdown through a positive lens.

“There may be uncertainty over when the tournaments will resume but it allows me time to work on my weaknesses,” said Anjum Moudgil.

Loading up the power

Even with London 2012 bronze medallist MC Mary Kom and three-time Olympian Vikas Krishan confirmed to box at the Tokyo Olympics, emerging talent Amit Panghal has taken the mantle of being one of the favourites to bring home a medal from Tokyo.

The flyweight is the world number one ranked boxer in his weight class - but Panghal is still looking for improvement. The pugilist is intelligent in the ring and packs more than a solid punch but feels that he needs to find the optimum strength.

“I think I still need a bit more power, I have had less of it since I shifted from the 49kg to the 52kg category. Even my coach felt the same, so I have been working on it since the lockdown,” the 24-year-old Panghal revealed to the Olympic Channel.

But what makes him one of the country’s foremost hopes is the attitude with which he takes every challenge in his stride.

“The first thing that occurred to me when the postponement was announced was that it gave me an extra year to prepare. It is an advantage for me and that preparation process begins now,” he stated.

Vikas Krishan, too, is keeping himself busy to become an Olympic champion a year down the line.

“I don’t want a lucky bronze or a silver medal. I am going there with full confidence and I want a gold medal,” he told the Olympic Channel.

“This time God has planned something better for me,” he added, hoping his experience will make him a better boxer. “Now I have time and I will learn to fill the things that were missing out.”