The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will now take place in 2021. The announcement was made by the International Olympic Committee last week but a decision on the new dates is expected in the next three weeks.
But how does the change in years affect Indian athletes? Like MC Mary Kom who will be 38 next year, or Narsingh Yadav who is now eligible to challenge Sushil Kumar again? Gymnast Dipa Karmakar will have recovered from her injury but Leander Paes will have finished his ‘One Last Roar’ season.
India’s most successful boxer MC Mary Kom punched her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics at the Asian qualifiers earlier this March. That event was also among the last of the qualifiers to take place before the coronavirus forced almost the entire world into a lockdown.
Now, as the games have been postponed to next year, Mary Kom has an added challenge ahead of her, and that is to maintain her fitness and form into the 38th year of her life. But for someone who has been the pioneer of women’s boxing across the world and has been breaking records for almost two decades, the next 12 months will only be more time to prepare for what will be her Olympics farewell.
"Now I get more time to prepare, our training plans can be extended,” Mary said when the postponement was announced.
The postponement of the Olympics has also set up an interesting showdown in Indian wrestling. Narsingh Yadav, who competes in Sushil Kumar’s 74 kg category and had qualified for the Rio Olympics, will have finished his four-year ban in 2021.
Narsingh was embroiled in a big controversy before the 2016 Olympics after he made the cut for Rio following a big selection controversy, only to fail a dope test before the Games. Narsingh then even alleged that Sushil Kumar was trying to sabotage his career.
In the end, the younger wrestler was banned for four years and pulled out of Rio one day before his opening bout. He is going to finish his ban this July and has been training for a comeback. The Indian wrestling federation has already welcomed him back and so, while Sushil has already been India’s top choice for the Tokyo qualifiers in the 74 kg event, he will now have to fight Narsingh again if Tokyo is still on his agenda.
In badminton, India had PV Sindhu and Sai Praneeth set to make the cut for the Olympics, with the help of all their points from the World Championships in 2019.
The cut-off date for the qualification window was the end of April 2020 but now that half the events in March and everything in April has been cancelled, there will be another window for qualification for the Olympics and it will majorly benefit two other stars – Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Sriknath.
National coach Pullele Gopichand had earlier this March stated that both the players should’ve taken a break between the 2018 and 2019 seasons and returned to base, trained and worked on making their foundations stronger.
Well! When life gives you lemons? Let’s see if the two can use this extension to reignite their Olympic dreams.
The one silver lining to this postponement is Dipa Karmakar, who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics and won our hearts. But the gymnast has been struggling with injuries since an ACL tear in 2017. She made a short comeback but has been out of action since 2019 and had missed most qualifiers. She will be fully fit soon and even though most qualification events in gymnastics are over – six out of eight World Cups – there is a tiny window of hope if she performs well in the remaining two events.
In tennis, three of India’s big stars were vying for qualification sports – Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna, and Sania Mirza. Sania was making her comeback from motherhood when an injury ruled her out for a few weeks. She returned to play the Fed Cup and was on her way to Indian Wells when the tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus. Leander announced at the start of the year that 2020 would be his ‘one last roar’ before retirement. He is now reportedly looking at extending that deadline by another year as India’s doubles stars aim for one final shot at an Olympic podium.
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