Five Indian athletes who could gain from Tokyo Olympics postponement to 2021

The enforced absence of sporting competition will offer Dipa a less stressful period of rehabilitation. AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

The dates for the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games have now been set for almost exactly one year after the Games were due to start - July 23 to Aug 8, 2021. While the disruption of the traditional four-year cycle has caused major issues for competitors the world over, we look at five Indian athletes who can benefit from the one-year postponement.

Dipa Karmakar

Dipa's run through Rio 2016 was one of the great stories of that Olympics but she has been struggling since a surgery on her ACL in 2017. While she became the first Indian gymnast to win gold at a global event (World Challenge Cup, Turkey) in 2018, injuries to her dodgy knee would continue to plague her and cause her to miss key qualifiers through 2018 and 2019.

Now, the enforced absence of sporting competition will allow for a less stressful period of rehabilitation, and with a return to full fitness, she will be confident of performing well at the two remaining qualifiers that should take place ahead of next year's Games.

Kidambi Srikanth

As it stood, Srikanth - world no. 1 for a brief period in 2018 -- would not have qualified for Tokyo. Although ranked 14 in the world, he was ranked 21st in the BWF's Olympic Qualification charts (outside the top 16, who qualify). Having lost in the first round in four out of the last five tournaments he participated in (lost in the second round in the other), his chances of putting together a good run during the qualification period were slim.

With the postponement, though, Srikanth has time to reset himself and rediscover some of that lost form. If he can put together a run of results in the coming months, once the BWF tour events start again, he could well crack that top 16.

The same applies to Olympic bronze medalist Saina Nehwal.

Sakshi Malik

One of only two Indian medalists in Rio, Sakshi Malik would have been, arguably, the highest profile Indian athlete to miss the Games if it had happened as per schedule. Having been beaten twice by 18-year-old Sonam Malik (in the national trials and national qualifiers for the Asian Olympic qualifiers), she was out of contention for Tokyo before the postponement.

Now, though, she has a chance to address the slip in form that cost her a place and get back to the kind of form that made her the only Indian woman to win an Olympic wrestling medal.

Narsingh Yadav

Why couldn't Narsingh qualify for Tokyo 2020? Well, because he had been banned for four years in 2016, for failing a dope test. The ban that started one day before his first bout at Rio, ends in four months, in July 2020.

Since the IOC has clarified that athletes whose bans end in 2020 will be eligible and considering the Indian Federation's willingness to accommodate him, Narsingh will be raring for a go at the Olympic glory that he was denied four years ago. "Destiny", as Narsingh calls it.

Neeraj Chopra

Yes, he qualified in the nick of time. Yes, he did it with a throw that was near his best (87.06m v his national record of 88.06m). But that throw came in his first competitive event after undergoing major elbow surgery that kept him out of action for the most part of 2019.

Neeraj in peak form would have been in contention for India's first Olympic medal in Athletics post-independence, but that wouldn't have been the case this summer. Now with a full year to prepare and build up momentum, this postponement might well be exactly what he needs.