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Tokyo 2020: The Indian Rewind

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

By Ashwin Menon (UG22)

The Olympics, Tokyo 2020, was a huge success regardless of the circumstances it was hosted under. It was spectacular, and just when we thought breaking further records was impossible, the athletes proved us wrong. As has been the case with all recent Olympic games, team USA led the tally of medals with 113, 39 of them being gold medals. China was close behind with 38 gold medals and a total count of 88. The home team, Japan, also put in an impressive show at the games with 27 gold medals and 58 medals altogether. But how did India fare? India finished 48th with seven medals and a single gold medal, recording its best-ever Olympic performance in over four decades.

India opened the tally in the women's 49kg weightlifting category. Mirabai Chanu managed to lift a combined weight of 202kg to ensure a silver medal and her first-ever Olympic medal. She also became the first-ever weightlifter to win an Olympic medal since the legendary Karnam Malleshwari in Sydney 2000. Lovlina Borgohain was next in the women's welterweight boxing. She lost to the top seed Busenaz Surmeneli of Turkey in the Semifinals but beat the Chinese Taipei's Nien-Chin Chen to bag a bronze medal for team India.

Then came the third medal, a Badminton Bronze. P.V. Sindhu made history to become the first Indian woman and second Indian Athlete ever to win two individual Olympic medals. She beat China's He Bing Jiao in the Bronze medal match comprehensively in a 21-13, 21-15 win. At this point, Team India had already outperformed their tally at a disappointing Rio 2016.

In the men's 57kg freestyle wrestling, India's Ravi Kumar Dahiya was up against the odds. In the Semifinals, he faced Nurislam Sanayev of Kazakhstan and ended up trailing 2-9. The fans would have been forgiven to think that nothing more than a bronze was coming home from this event. A masterclass of the highest order followed, which saw him complete the comeback of dreams to win the match and progress to the finals, where he lost to Zavur Uguev, the two-time world champion of the ROC. In doing so, he confirmed his silver medal and would not be the last wrestler to bag a medal in Tokyo 2020.

The men's Indian hockey team is no stranger to criticism. For 41 years, the team had not won a single medal at the Olympics and at one point, Tokyo 2020 looked like it would be no different. Being 3-1 down to Germany in the Bronze medal match, the team made a huge comeback to win 5-4 and claim the bronze medal. This meant the team claimed its first Olympic medal in Hockey since the gold in 1980 Moscow. Bajrang Punia's Bronze followed this in the men's 65kg wrestling. In the playoff, he beat Kazakhstan's Daulet Niyazbekov to make it 6 for India's total tally in Tokyo 2020, which equalled their best-ever finish and some emphatic post-match celebrations with his coaching staff.

But what would complete the story? What would finally break that record? India needed to see gold, and it had not from an Individual event, or for that matter, any event since Abhinav Bindra in Beijing 2008. All eyes were on 23-year-old javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra. With an impressive record already as the reigning World Junior Champion, the South Asian Games champion, the Asian Champion, the commonwealth games champion and the Asian Games champion, the pressure was on the young Athlete from Panipat, Haryana, to perform. That is precisely what he did with a throw of 87.58 meters which was just short of his national record of 88.07 meters. This ensured him the gold medal with no other participant able to match his throw. The echo of the Indian national anthem during the medal ceremony will forever stay with each and every one of us.

With that, India had completed its best-ever finish in the Olympic games with seven medals. A performance that Indians can be proud of and makes the country hopeful for many more games to come.

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