Rush hour

How is the Indian challenge for Rio shaping up? Here is a lowdown...

Rush hour

With two silver and four bronze me­dals, India enjoyed a high in London Oly­mpics in 2012. Will they be able to do better in Rio? The preparations are yet to hit full swing to raise the level of expectations in many sports while in others, a trace of optimism is apparent. As our sportspersons target Rio, here is a look at where we stand in major sports...


Wrestling

Wrestling fetched India two medals at the London Olympics (Sushil Kumar, silver) and (Yogeshwar Dutt, bronze) from an impressive contingent of five wrestlers — four men and one woman. The number is expected to go up in Rio Games, considering their good performances in the last couple of years. The World Championships, scheduled at Las Vegas from September 7 to 12, will be the first of the four qualification events, followed by a Continental qualification tournament and two international qualification tournaments.

In the men’s section, double Olympic medallist Sushil (pix, top) is gearing up to compete in his final Olympics, though he will have to wrestle in a new weight category (74kg) this time. He pulled out of the Worlds due to an injury, but even if Narsingh Yadav (74kg) bags an Olympics quota from Las Vegas, he will have to take on Sushil in the trials for an India berth.

Dutt, winner of back-to-back gold medals in CWG and Asian Games, Amit Kumar, Bajrang and Satyawart Kadian are all in the qualification race. Among women, Geeta Phogat, Vinesh and Babita, will be in fray to book berths.

SHOOTING

A fter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver in 2004 and Abhinav Bindra’s gold in 2008, shooters again sparkled for India in London 2012. Vijay Kumar’s silver (25M rapid fire pistol) and Gagan Narang’s bronze (10M air rifle) further established the sport as India’s main medal avenue.

Aiming to improve, the Indian shooters have bagged five quota places so far for Rio. Jitu Rai was the first to earn one with his silver-medal finish (50M pistol) at the World Championship in Spain last September. Bindra too hit the target when he finished sixth in the 10M air rifle final at the Munich World Cup in May. The experienced Narang (pictured left, 50M rifle prone) and Gurpreet Singh (10M air pistol) have also earned the quota places. Apurvi Chandela (10M air rifle) is the only one to earn the quota among women.

Vijay, back from injury, is struggling to find form. Heena Sidhu, Rahi Sarnobat and Chain Singh among others could also make it, increasing India’s chances of a fine show at Rio.

BOXING

Four years ago, India prided themselves in sending their largest boxing contingent to the Olympics — seven men and one woman. It is a different story altogether that they could return with just one bronze from Mary Kom.

Despite the talent in their ranks, the boxing scenario in the country looks gloomy now, due to shoddy administration. The road to Rio, as such, look hard for the Indian boxers, who will be among those hit by the complete overhaul of Olympic qualification rules by AIBA. The inclusion of qualification berths from AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) and World Series of Boxing (WSB) competitions has cut down the spots for amateur boxers besides making the competition cut throat. Out of the 250 spots up for grabs, 63 will now go to APB and WSB boxers. No Indian is part of either APB or WSB.

The World Championships in Doha will offer reduced 23 Olympic spots. Making the quarterfinals in Worlds will no longer seal an Olympic berth for the likes of Shiv Thapa (in picture above) and team. Also, the continental championships, another Olympic qualification event, will include Oceania, bringing in boxers from Australia and New Zealand into the mix.

Golf

With the top-60 golfers making the automatic cut, it  seems like only Anirban Lahiri from the country may be teeing off at Rio.  The Bengalurean is currently ranked 52nd in the world and with him enjoying one of the best phases of his life, he should make the grade when spots are confirmed based on world rankings as of July 11, 2016.

Contributed by: Pragya Tiwari, Vivek M V, Naveen Peter, Sidney Kiran, Madhu Jawali and Rajeev K

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