Sports Minister Vijay Goel emphasised on the need to start preparing for 2020 Tokyo Games from now itself after the country managed a disappointing two medals from the just-concluded Rio Olympics despite fielding its biggest-ever contingent of 100 plus athletes.
Congratulating badminton star P V Sindhu and woman wrestler Sakshi Malik, Goel said a few Indian sportspersons were unlucky to miss out on the podium in Rio but hoped the country will exceed the number of participating athletes four years from now in Tokyo.
“I am very happy for PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik. But some players like Abhinav Bindra, Dipa Karmakar, Sania Mirza were very close to a medal,” Goel said after inaugurating ‘Sport India 2016 – fourth India International Sports Good Show’ here.
“Under the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) programme we provided customised training to all athletes. We provided all athletes with the best possible training. We provided them foreign coaches and training at foreign locations and that’s why a record 118 athletes qualified for the Rio Olympics.
“But we need to start preparing for Tokyo 2020 from now and I am expecting over 200 athletes to qualify from India in the next Olympics,” he added.
In Rio, three women athletes — Sindhu, Sakshi and Dipa Karmakar — became the unlikely stars for India and saved the country’s pride from returning empty-handed for the first time since 1992 Barcelona Games.
The trio notched a few firsts for India; Sindhu, at 21, became the youngest to win an Olympic medal, a silver which was never achieved in badminton; and Sakshi’s bronze was also a first for woman wrestling.
India’s first female gymnast Dipa went on to miss a bronze by 0.15 points but her clean finish in the high-risk Produnova vault won the hearts of the nation.