India's hopes of adding more boxers to their Olympic contingent came to an end on Monday after the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision to scrap the final boxing qualifier for Tokyo 2020 - a global event which was due to take place in Paris in June. The decision was announced by the IOC's Boxing Task Force (BTF).
The decision would be particularly felt in the men's and women's 57kg divisions -- which are among India's strongest weight categories. India has qualified a boxer in the 57 kg (and previously the 56kg) divisions in three consecutive Olympics prior to Tokyo. Among the boxers who will miss out include Commonwealth Games gold medalist Gaurav Solanki (men's 57kg), 2017 world quarter-finalist Kavinder Bisht (men's 57kg) and world silver medallist Sonia Chahal (women's 57kg).
"It's a disaster for us," said a senior coach with the Indian team.
Fifty-three quota places - 32 for men and 21 for women -- that would have been available at the world Olympic qualifiers, will now be assigned based on rankings instead, with the best-ranked boxer per region, per weight category receiving a Tokyo 2020 berth.
"Following the fundamental principle of universality, one nominal quota (by name) will be allocated to the best ranked athlete not yet qualified per region and per weight category, as per the BTF rankings upon the conclusion of each respective continental event," the BTF said.
The BTF said the changes to the qualification system ensure athletes from all regions have an equal chance to qualify for the Games.
According to the ranking and seeding guidelines of the Boxing Task force, ranking points were to be awarded according to men's results in the 2017 and 2019 World Championships, the 2018 Continental Games and the 2020 Continental qualifiers. For the women boxers, ranking points were to be awarded at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships, the 2018 Continental Games and the 2020 Olympic qualifiers.
Although the final BTF rankings would be determined only at the conclusion of the European and Pan American qualifiers, there isn't any chance for Indian to improve their rankings since there are no further ranking competitions left for them to participate in.
Following the cancellation of the World Qualifiers, only the highest ranked Asian boxer who had yet to qualify for Tokyo would get the Olympic quota. In the men's 57kg division, the highest ranked Indian boxer is Kavinder Bisht, who is in 14th place with 212.5 points. However, the Olympic quota will likely go to Erdenebatyn Tsendbaatar of Mongolia who is ranked 7th.
In the men's 81kg division, India's Sachin Kumar is ranked 21st with the Olympic quota likely to go to Dilshodbek Ruzmetov of Uzbekistan who is ranked 6th. In the men's 91kg division, Sanjeet Kumar (WR 29) is likely to miss out.
The women's 57kg division is the only one which is unlikely to feature an Indian participant. The highest ranked Indian is Sonia Chahal (WR 18) while the highest ranked Asian yet to qualify is World no. 5 Nesthy Petecio of Phillipines.
According to the BTF, the decision was made following consultations with boxing NFs, NOCs, its technical experts, the boxing Athlete Ambassadors -- one of whom is India's Mary Kom -- and medical experts. The BTF statement suggested there were concerns regarding "evolving travel restrictions, quarantine requirements and governmental policies that could affect athlete preparation timelines, their ability to participate in the Olympic qualifiers and the presence of technical officials at these qualifiers."