Tokyo Olympics: Saina, Sushil among India's biggest missing stars at 2020 Games

From L-R: Kidambi Srikanth, Saina Nehwal, Sushil Kumar, Leander Paes and Sakshi Malik Getty

When the Olympics start later this month in Tokyo, over a 100 athletes will be representing India for the second Games in succession. However, some of the biggest names in Indian sport will be missing after failing to qualify for the showpiece event.

Saina Nehwal

A veteran of three Olympics and the first Indian badminton player to win a medal at the Games, Saina's failure to qualify for a fourth successive Olympic Games is probably the biggest shock on this list. After losing in the quarterfinals on her Olympic debut in 2008 as a teenager, Saina went on to win bronze in London in 2012, before exiting early in Rio in 2016 due to injury.

Saina was in fine form for the first half of this Olympic cycle and medalled at both the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games in 2018, as well as the World Championships in 2017. She started 2019 well by winning the Indonesia Masters and the National Championships, but a spate of injuries and poor form post that ended up costing her an Olympic berth.

Sushil Kumar

Arguably India's greatest Olympian, Sushil will not be in action for the second Olympics in a row. The only Indian to win two individual medals at different editions of the Olympics, Sushil is currently in jail. Having debuted at the 2004 Games, Sushil won bronze and silver in 2008 and 2012 respectively, and is the only Indian to win gold at the wrestling World Championships.

While he did win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he lost in the opening round of the Asian Games and only competed sporadically over the last couple of years.

Sakshi Malik

India's display at the Rio Olympics was largely disappointing but Sakshi Malik was a revelation as she stunned all observers to win bronze in the women's 58 kg category. The first and only Indian woman wrestler to medal at the Olympics, Sakshi has struggled to match her performance in Rio and has lacked consistency over the last few years.

Sakshi won bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in a fairly ordinary field and failed to medal at the Asian Games. In fact, she is no longer India's best wrestler in her preferred weight category as she has lost multiple times to Sonam Malik, who will represent India in Tokyo in the 62 kg category.

Kidambi Srikanth

When Srikanth stretched two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan to three games in a tightly-contested quarterfinal at the 2016 Olympics, most thought that he would be a strong medal contender at the subsequent edition. He then went on to further cement that impression after winning four Superseries titles in 2017 and also ascending to the position of World No. 1 in April 2018.

Despite being the best player in the world a few years back, and consistently in the top 15 in world rankings, Srikanth's losses against players ranked well below him have ultimately cost him a second Olympics appearance.

Hima Das

The primary reason for Das missing out on qualification is her switch to running the 100m and 200m races over her preferred 400m distance.

Das is the only Indian to win a gold medal in a track event at the U-20 World Championships and her silver medal winning effort in the 400m at the 2018 Asian Games marked her out as one of India's brightest prospects. However, Das' timing in that final (50.79s) was well under the Olympic cut-off, but the decision to make her compete over the shorter sprints ultimately ended costing her a berth at the Olympics.

Shiva Thapa

Thapa holds the distinction of being the youngest Indian boxer to qualify for the Olympics, a feat he achieved when he qualified for the London Olympics as a teenager. He's still only 27 and continues to be in impressive form as he won silver at the Asian Championships earlier this year. Thapa is the only Indian boxer to medal at each of the last five editions of the Asian Championships, and also one of only six Indian men to medal at the World Championships.

The only reason for him to miss out on the Olympics is that India has an array of strong boxers in the lightweight category that Thapa competes in, including Manish Kaushik, who won a bronze at the last World Championships and will represent India in Tokyo.

Dipa Karmakar

Having vaulted into a nation's consciousness with her sublime execution of the high-risk Produnova vault on the way to a fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics in an extremely strong field, Dipa has suffered a series of injuries over the past five years that have cost her a second successive Olympics appearance.

Regardless of how she does when she gets her next chance at the Games, Dipa has left a long-lasting impact with her spate of firsts in Indian gymnastics over the years.

Leander Paes

No Indian has competed in more Olympics than Paes, who ended India's 44-year wait for an individual medal with a bronze in the men's singles event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Paes appeared in every Olympics from 1992 to 2016 and came agonisingly close to winning a second medal on multiple occasions, finishing fourth in the men's doubles event at the 2004 Olympics.

He also made the men's doubles quarterfinals in 1992 and 2008 and the mixed doubles quarterfinals in 2012, losing to the eventual gold medallists in the latter two. Now aged 48, it is unlikely he'll appear at an Olympics again but he'll forever be remembered as one of India's greatest Olympians in history.

Heena Sidhu

Before India started winning medals by the bucketful with its burst of teenage talent over the past three years, Heena Sidhu was one of India's finest shooters and the first Indian pistol shooter to be ranked number one in the world.

Sidhu continues to be one of India's top shooters but the resurgence of Rahi Sarnobat, combined with the emergence of Manu Bhaker and Chinki Yadav, means that she'll have to wait to join Anjali Bhagwat as the only Indian woman shooter to appear at three Olympics.