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Government looks beyond core sports for 2024 Paris Olympics | More sports News


NEW DELHI: Indian athletes and sports administrators are bracing up for another Olympics – the Tokyo Games is less than eight months away. The medal hopes, as usual, are pinned on those traditional sports in which India has generally offered a good account of itself.

These largely include shooting, wrestling, badminton and boxing. There were high hopes from Indian athletes at the 2016 Rio Games as well, with the sports ministry, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) confidently predicting a haul of 15 to 20 medals.

However, the fact that it took the country 12 days to open its medal account showed how far we were from reality. Had it not been for PV Sindhu’s historic silver and Sakshi Malik’s bronze, India would have returned home with an empty bag.

This time also, the national sports federations (NSFs), in a recent meeting with the ministry and IOA officials, confidently projected a count of 14 medals from the Tokyo Games – wrestling (four) and shooting (five) federations alone offering a total of nine. Realistically speaking, six to eight medals would largely be considered an excellent outing for India, which won six medals at 2012 London Games.

Sports minister Kiren Rijiju has already set a target for India at the future Olympics, speaking about a double-digit medals tally at the Paris Games and a top-10 finish at the 2028 Los Angeles Games. However, the Indian sports administrators have realized that placing bet only on shooting, wrestling, badminton and boxing will not help. They have to shift focus to developing those sports in which a medal for India has been rarely won.

So, in a bid to improve India’s performance in future Olympic editions, the government has decided to focus on five sports disciplines which offer a bountiful of medals at the Games. The government’s big push will come in developing swimming, fencing, cycling, judo and athletics as strong medal hopes for 2024 Paris Olympics.

It has been unanimously decided to earmark most of the funding for these five sports, developing excellence centres for them, TOI has learnt after speaking to various officials. The development will start right from building a strong grassroots level programme and academies to promote the talent.

The government’s logic is simple: there are a bucketful of medals on offer in these five events at the Games and if India manages to win a couple of medals each in all five – apart from a good show in shooting, wrestling and others – the country would to able to achieve its target of 20+ medals in Paris.

In Rio, swimming offered a whopping 104 medals in 34 events. In Tokyo, swimming will offer more than 120 medals in 37 events. Similarly, in Rio, fencing offered 30 medals in 10 events. In Tokyo, the sport will have 36 medals in 12 events. In Tokyo, cycling is offering 66 medals, judo 60 medals and athletics more than 150 medals.

“It makes sense to put all our efforts in developing these disciplines. Look at the number of medals on offer, it’s huge. The minister was categorical about developing swimming, fencing, and cycling. Imagine what will happen if India starts winning medals in these events. We can touch 20+ by the Paris Games,” a senior federation official said.

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