Can India ever win an Olympic medal in athletics, the mother of all sports? The question has become a puzzle that remains still unsolved as it has been either a tale of "so close yet so far" or a story of a "far cry."
Only two Indian legends came very close -- Milkha Singh & PT Usha -- and two more -- Anju Bobby George and Krishna Punia -- showed good potential. But none could actually solve the puzzle.
But when the likes of Arpinder Singh, who won a historic gold in men's triple jump in the recently concluded Asian Games, says that it can be achieved soon, you just have to sit up and take notice.
"We will win 3-4 medals in athletics in Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The way Neeraj Chopra is progressing, he is a sure shot medallist. Hima Das, Dutee Chand and Jini Johnson are great prospects. My performance has also been near Olympic mark," Arpinder Singh told Republic TV in an exclusive interview on Sunday.
Arpinder's high hopes are echoed by other athletes as well. "Its no longer about the bagful of medals India have been winning in athletics in the Asiad, its the manner or performance by which Indian athletes have loudly announced their arrival on the big stage," said Jini Johnson, who won a gold in 1500m & silver in 800m.
Athletics has given India 19 medals, including 5 gold, by far highest by a long distance in this edition of the Asian Games. But that has always been the case. What is pleasantly different this time is that medals have come with near World or Olympic level performances.
For Md Anas, the undisputed sprint king of India, who won three silver medals at the Games, Olympic medal no longer remains a distant dream. "Yes, its actually possible. We are very near to it. Our performances tell it all."
Neeraj Chopra's 88.06 in men's javelin throw would have fetched him an Olympic bronze. Arpinder Singh's over 16m triple jump effort was a world-class effort. Jini Johnson's 1,500 run was a world-class run and the timing was surprisingly better than Rio Olympic gold medal's timing. Hima Das and Dutee Chand have been revelations and women's 4 x 400m show was simply stunning.
Amid deserving celebration and showering accolades, a nation still awaits with baited breathe for its first medal in athletics in Olympics. " Yes a medal in athletics is the most difficult to get in Olympics. And this time we will break that jinx and clinch the elusive medal in Olympics," said Jinson Johnson.
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