India’s 120 athlete-strong contingent is the largest that the nation has ever sent to the Olympics in its history. And, while it is a good blend of youth and experience, only two Indian athletes - PV Sindhu and MC Mary Kom - travel to Tokyo with prior experience of winning a medal at the Summer Games.

While star Indian shuttler PV Sindhu had won a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics, MC Mary Kom had clinched a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympics nine years back

India’s highest-ranked shuttler in BWF rankings, PV Sindhu sealed her berth in Tokyo by finishing seventh in the BWF Olympic Qualification points table with 72,384 points from 16 tournaments.

Mary Kom, on the other hand, qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after reaching the semi-finals of the Asia/Oceania Qualifiers in the 51kg category. She had beaten Italy’s Giordana Sorrentino in a split decision in March 2020.

However, while qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics seemed like a smooth sail for the two veterans, clinching a second Olympic medal will be equally tough. Here we look at their chances of achieving that feat.

What are Mary Kom’s chances of winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics?

Despite plying her trade in the 51kg category since 2012, where she has won multiple medals, Mary Kom is no longer the best in business. While her experience will play a major role in her quest for an Olympic medal, the steep competition in her discipline ensures that Kom has to punch above her weight.

World no.3 Mary Kom sits below Chol Mi Pang of Korea (world no.1) and Turkey's Busenaz Cakiroglu (world no. 2) in the AIBA World rankings. And her recent defeats to lower-ranked pugilists like America’s Virginia Fuchs in the Boxam International Boxing tournament and Kazakhstan’s Nazym Kyzaibay in the Asian Boxing Championships, further questions the 38-year-old’s ability to cope with the strong field of women’s 51kg category. 

The 51kg category field at the London Olympics in 2012 had only eight boxers, which meant Kom started her Olympic campaign in the quarter-finals and was assured of a medal after just one win when she reached the semi-final - something that won’t be the case in Tokyo. Here, Kom will be assured of a medal only after she wins three of her bouts. She would need to win another two to clinch the gold medal.

What are Mary Kom’s chances of winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics?

Unlike Mary Kom, PV Sindhu still has age on her side. More importantly, the Hyderabad shuttler comes to Tokyo with more experience under her belt than the fearless 21-year-old that had clinched the silver in Rio. Furthermore, the pulling out of defending Olympic champion Carolina Marin owing to an injury has also given sixth-seeded Sindhu a psychological boost.

Sindhu will still have the imperious Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei as one of her toughest opponents at the Games. No other opponent at the Tokyo Olympics has enjoyed such dominance over Sindhu as the second-seeded Tai Tzu, who leads the Indian 13-5 in head-to-head. The Indian shuttler, however, has fared well against most others.

China’s Chen Yu Fei might come to the Olympics as the top seed, but she trails Sindhu 4-6 in head-to-head. In fact, Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi - seeded third and fourth at the Games - both trail the Indian in head-to-head. Apart from Tai Tzu Ying, only fifth-seeded Ratchanok Intanon of Indonesia holds a slight lead of 6-4 against Sindhu.

Clubbed into Group J alongside Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngam Yi and Israel’s Ksenia Polikarpova, PV Sindhu will look for easy progress into the knockout stages. Going by her form and calibre, Sindhu has a real shot at an Olympic gold medal.

Featured Image: SAI Media