India at Tokyo 2020: Boxing, tennis, TT draws revealed; limited contingent at Olympics opening ceremony


A day before the opening ceremony, ESPN brings you the latest from the Indian contingent at Tokyo -- from some tough draws to a curious case involving an Ugandan weightlifter, Thursday has been some day:

Boxing draw

Nine Indian boxers - the country's largest ever contingent for the discipline -- were handed rather tough draws on Thursday

Top seed and world no.1 Amit Panghal (52kg) got a bye into the Olympic Games pre-quarterfinal, where he will face the winner of the bout between Botswana's Mahommed Rajab Otukile and Colombia's Herney Rivas Martinez.

In the women's competition, six-time world champion M C Mary Kom (51kg) will square off against Dominica's Miguelina Hernandez on July 25 and if she wins, would then face Colombian third seed Lorena Victoria Valencia.

Also getting a bye was former Asian Games bronze-medallist Satish Kumar (+91kg), who is the first super heavyweight from India to make the Olympic cut. He will face Jamaica's Ricardo Brown in the pre-quarters and if he wins, it will be top seed Bakhodir Jalolov of Uzbekistan. Jalolov is the reigning world champion, besides being a three-time Asian champion.

Ashish Chaudhary (75kg) will be up against China's Erbieke Touheta, Manish Kaushik (63kg) will be up against Britain's European silver-medallist Luke McCormack in their opening rounds.

Vikas Krishan (69kg) will take on Japan's Mensah Okazawa in the round of 32 and if he crosses this hurdle, he will be fighting Cuba's third-seeded Roniel Iglesias. Iglesias is the 2012 Olympic gold-medallist and also a former world champion.

Pooja Rani (75kg), meanwhile, will take on Algeria's Ichrak Chaib and if she progresses, China's second seed Li Qian. Qian is the reigning Asian champion and the 2018 world champion.

Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Simranjit Kaur (60kg) both got byes and will be facing Germany's Nadine Apetz and Thailand's Sudaporn Seesondee in the pre-quarters.

Boxing starts July 24

Ugandan weightlifter who went missing seen wearing old India track jacket

In a rather curious incident, Ugandan weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko, who was sent back to his country four days after he fled during pre-Olympics training, was seen wearing an India track jacket at the airport. The 20-year-old, who was found in central Japan, was seen clad in a red track top with India written on the back while making his way through the Narita airport in a report aired by NTV channel in Tokyo.

It looked similar to the kit that Indian athletes wore during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. Indian Olympic Association (IOA) secretary general Rajeev Mehta made it clear that the apparel was not the country's official kit for the Tokyo Games

Background on the Ssekitoleko story --

Ugandan officials and teammates raised an alarm on Friday last week after Ssekitoleko failed to show up for his COVID-19 test and was not found in his hotel room either. As per reports, Ssekitoleko arrived in Japan before his qualification for the Games had been confirmed. On July 5, he was informed by the International Weightlifting Federation that he had not got the quota for the Olympics. On learning this, Ssekitoleko had reportedly fled his hotel room, leaving behind a note saying he didn't want to return to his own country. He was found in the Yokkaichi city, 170 km east of his host town in western Japan and was sent back to Uganda on Wednesday.

Limited contingent at opening ceremony

A total of 20 Indian athletes from seven sports and six officials will participate in the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday as COVID-19 concerns and competitions lined up the next day led to a majority of the contingent deciding to stay away from the event.

Athletes from sports like shooting, badminton, archery and hockey, will skip the ceremony as the Indian delegation is not willing to expose them to the risk of contracting the virus with their events lined up on Saturday. From hockey, only flag-bearer, men's team captain Manpreet Singh, will participate in the ceremony.

The list of 20 attendees include the four table tennis athletes, the four sailors, lone fencer C A Bhavani Devi, lone gymnast Pranati Naik and swimmer Sajan Prakash, besides as many as eight boxers.

The overall contingent size being 228, including officials, coaches, other support staff and alternate athletes in view of the COVID-19.

The six officials who will be part of the event are India's Chef de Mission Birender Prasad Baishya, Deputy Chef de Mission Dr Prem Verma, Team doctor Dr Arun Basil Mathew, manager of table tennis team MP Singh, boxing coach Muhammad Ali Qamar and gymnastics coach Lakhan Sharma.

Tennis draw

Sania Mirza and Ankita Raina will play the Kichenok twins -- Nadiia and Lyudmyla -- of Ukraine in the opening round of the women's doubles event in Tokyo. Mirza had paired up with Nadiia after returning from her maternity leave to win the Hobart Open last year.

Sumit Nagal will face Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in the opening round of the men's singles event. A first-round win could see him face second-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev, who takes on Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik in his opening-round match.

Both events start July 24.

Table Tennis draw

India's table tennis players paddlers were handed tough draws with the mixed doubles pairing of Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra pitted against third seeds Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei on Saturday.

Batra, ranked 62, though got an easy first round in her singles event, where she will face Great Britain's Ho Tin-Tin, ranked 94. If Batra wins, she will next face Ukraine's Margaryta Pesotska.

In the men's draw, Sharath and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, seeded 20th and 26th respectively, received first-round byes. Their opponents for the second round will depend on the winners of first-round matches.

However, Sharath -- if he wins his second-round match against either Portugal's Tiago Apolania or Nigeria's Olajide Omotayo -- is slated to meet Rio Olympics champion China's Ma Long, seeded second, in the third round.

Sathiyan will meet either Puerto Rico's Brian Afanador or Hong Kong's Lam Siu Hang in his second-round match on Sunday. If he wins there, he faces Japanese teen sensation Tomokazu Harimoto, seeded third, in the third round.

Sutirtha Mukherjee will take on Linda Bergstroem of Sweden in the first round and, if she wins, will face Portugal's Yu Fu in the second round.

Judo draw

India's lone judoka at the Games, Sushila Devi Likmabam has been handed a tough draw at the Tokyo Games as she will open her maiden Olympic campaign against 2012 London edition bronze medallist Eva Csernoviczki of Hungary in the round of 32

Sushila, who competes in the 48kg category, had qualified for her maiden Games via continental quota.

Sushila's bout is on July 24