For Indian sports fans, Rio de Janeiro gave more moments to celebrate from the Paralympics than the Olympics and if that is repeated in Tokyo, they would be in for a treat.
After a below-par showing at Rio 2016 by the Olympic contingent, the Paralympians stepped up for India, registering the country’s best result with two gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
The Paralympic Games for 2020, postponed like the Olympics were, will officially begin on August 24. Tokyo will be the first city to host the Paralympics twice, with the tournament’s first edition held in Rome in 1960 followed by Tokyo in 1964. Paralympics and Olympics have been held together in the same city each time since the Seoul 1988 Games.
India’s contingent for Tokyo Paralympics is nearly thrice as large as that of Rio 2016.
The country is fielding its largest ever contingent with 54 athletes set to compete across nine para-sports including – Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Canoeing, Shooting, Swimming, Powerlifting, Table Tennis and Taekwondo. In Rio 2016, the number of athletes representing India at the Paralympics was 19, spread across five sports. The result was also a record tally with two gold, one silver and one bronze. The count of athletes stood at just 10 in London four years previously, with one medal.
Expectations are aplenty from the Indian Paralympians, given some of their recent successes in the international arena.
In Tokyo, India will have not one but two former gold medallists. Both Devendra Jhajharia and Mariyappan Thangavelu are back to defend their Rio 2016 titles. Javelin throw will once again be the focus for Indian fans, with Sumit Antil and Sandeep Chaudhary primed for a podium finish in their category. Badminton’s addition to the Games’ roster is a boost for India’s hopes as well.
The athletes representing India at the Tokyo Paralympics span birthdays across 30 years. The 1973-born Parul Parmar (badminton) is the oldest in the contingent that has four 40-year-olds including double gold medallist Jhajharia. At the other end of the spectrum is Parmar’s doubles partner Palak Kohli, who recently turned 19 years old. The youngest Indian athlete in the contingent is 17-year-old Kashish Lakra (club throw). The average age of the contingent is 29.35.
Mariyappan will be the flagbearer at the opening ceremony for India.
India’s entries at Tokyo Paralympics