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Tokyo Dreams: The Tribune India




A full year of pain and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus-related disruptions in the sports world ended in cheer for many Indian athletes in recent days as they qualified for this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the schedule of athletes, whose plans are usually mapped out with clockwork precision – when and how much to train, when to worry. For much of the past 12 months, athletes have been unable to train or compete.

That’s why our athletes, table tennis players and fencers who have qualified for the Olympics in recent days deserve credit for keeping their mood and game sharp. Bhavani Devi, the very first Indian fencer to make it to the Olympics, practiced alone on the terrace of her home in Chennai, while her coach in Italy watched online and gave instructions. When the restrictions were reduced, she traveled to Italy. G Sathiyan, one of the table tennis players who qualified for Tokyo, chose to play in the Polish league and arrived there after waiting a month for a visa. Five weeks in Tokyo helped him improve his game, and despite an injury, he got his Olympic berth. During the lockdown, discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur trained hard at home, using a double bed for strength training and flower pots as dumbbells – it paid off when she broke the national record in qualifying for Tokyo. The long jumper Murali Sreeshankar, who insisted as a child in a shirt signed by Usain Bolt, worked on his body strength and speed during the restrictions. The 21-year-old broke the national record to qualify for the Olympics. Neeraj Chopra, who qualified in January 2020, had not had an event to participate in for over a year. At the beginning of this month he broke his own national stamp. Months of inactivity seem to have left Chopra, India’s best medal hopes on athletics in Tokyo, hungry.

These are stories that inspire. The pandemic shattered gymnast Dipa Karmakar’s Tokyo dreams and several boxers when tournaments were canceled. Some badminton stars in India won’t make it because they don’t have enough events to improve their rankings. There’s something that can be both cheered and sad in the sport – the wave of recent qualifiers outweighs the sad part.

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