The Tokyo Olympics, after a year-long delay, is almost upon us. Athletes from around the world will assemble in the Japanese capital for a fortnight, hoping to stand on the podium in the most prestigious sporting event in the world.
For a few of them, Tokyo could be their last chance to do that. Here’s a look at athletes who could be competing in their last Olympics:
MC Mary Kom (Boxing)
One of the most decorated athletes in Indian sporting history, MC Mary Kom will head to Tokyo, looking to win her second Olympic medal, having already won a bronze in the Flyweight category in London in 2012.
The high of London was followed by the low in Rio, when she could not make the Olympic cut in 2016.
But in the last few years, the 38-year-old has found a new lease to her career, having been crowned world champion for the sixth time in 2018 and winning bronze a year later and clinching the Asian Championship title in 2017.
Tokyo could well be Mary Kom’s last opportunity to change the colour from bronze in London 2012 to gold in 2020.
Sanjeev Rajput (Shooting)
The Indian shooting contingent has a lot of young talent, many of whom will be featuring in their first Olympics in Tokyo. However, there will be one shooter, who will carry more experience than others.
The Tokyo Olympics will be the third one for 50m Rifle three position shooter Sanjeev Rajput, after Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
At 40, Rajput has won a medal at most prestigious events around the world, but a podium finish at the Olympics has eluded him. Having missed out on qualifying at Rio in 2016 and now competing in possibly his last Olympics in Tokyo, he will hope that he can achieve that dream.
Sanjeev Rajput will be competing in his third Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020. – Reuters Photo
Tarundeep Rai (Archery)
The veteran Indian archer, who will participate in the individual and mixed team recurve event, will compete in his second Olympics at Tokyo. His last appearance at the Games came in 2012 in London, where he finished in 31st place in the men’s individual event.
Four years later, he missed out on qualification for the Rio Olympics and now, at the age of 37, he heads to Tokyo, hoping to win an Olympic medal, in possibly his last appearance at the event.
Tokyo 2020 will Indian archer Tarundeep Rai’s second appearance at the Olympics and possibly his last. – Biswaranjan Rout
Novak Djokovic (Tennis)
Novak Djokovic will come to Tokyo with an enormous amount of confidence, having won two Grand Slam titles in the last two months.
However, the Olympics is a stage where the Serbian has had mixed fortune. He won bronze in Beijing in 2008, but lost to Andy Murray in the semifinals in 2012 and then lost to Juan Martin Del Potro in the first round in 2016 in Rio.
Tokyo will be his third appearance at the Olympic Games and possibly his last. It could come with an added motivation as the 34-year-old looks to become the first male to look to achieve the Golden Slam, by winning all four Slams and the Olympic gold.
The Tokyo Olympics will offer Novak Djokovic with an opportunity to get one step closer towards history. – GETTY IMAGES
Eliud Kipchoge (Marathon)
One of the greatest long distance runners, 36-year-old Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya has won many accolades during the course of his career, including three Olympic medals, the last of which was a gold at Rio in 2016.
However, with the next Olympics still three years away, it does look like Tokyo could be Kipchoge’s last chance to win a fourth medal in as many editions of the Games and if he does manage to win, it could be a fitting end to his Olympic career.
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge is the men’s marathon world record holder and the only person to run a marathon in under two hours. – Reuters
Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi (Basketball)
American basketball legends Sue Bird, 40, and Diana Taurasi, 39, will most likely be playing in their last Olympic Games in Tokyo. The USA women’s basketball team have had the prolific services of Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer and Bird, the all-time leader in assists, for four editions of the Games now.
The four-time Olympic gold medallists will become the first basketball players of any gender to win five Olympic gold medals if USA makes in another win at Tokyo.
Diana Taurasi (left) and Sue Bird (right) can make it a historic fifth gold medal at Tokyo. – Getty Images
Sania Mirza (Tennis)
Tokyo 2020 will be Sania Mirza’s fourth Olympic Games, where she will compete in the women’s doubles event, alongside Ankita Raina. The 34-year-old came closest to winning her first Olympic medal at Rio, where she reached the semifinals in the mixed doubles event, partnering Rohan Bopanna.
Now entering into her fourth Olympics, Mirza will hope to cross the final hurdle and clinch her maiden medal in women’s doubles with Ankita Raina in what could possibly be her last opportunity.
After missing out narrowly at Rio, Sania Mirza will hope to stand on the podium in Tokyo. – AP
Sharath Kamal (Table Tennis)
Sharath Kamal’s journey in Indian Table Tennis has lasted close to two decades and in that time span, he has won multiple Commonwealth Games and Asian Games medals.
However, the Olympic medal has eluded the paddler and at 39, Tokyo could be his final opportunity to stand at the podium and thereby, fill that void in his CV.
Sharath Kamal will be making a fourth Olympic appearance at Tokyo. – ITTF
Allyson Felix (Athletics)
One of the greatest track-and-field athletes of all time, Allyson Felix will compete in her fifth Olympics in Tokyo and possibly her last, as well.
The 35-year-old American has had a decorated career at the Games, having won six gold medals and three silver medals.
She will hope to win her tenth Olympic medal at Tokyo, in what will possibly be her final appearance at the Games.
American sprinter Allyson Felix will be eyeing a tenth Olympic medal at Tokyo. – AFP
Representing Brazil for the seventh time at the Olympic Games, Miraildes Maciel Mota also known as Formiga is a symbol of longevity as far as the Games are concerned.
The 43-year-old midfielder has won two silver medals with Brazil at Athens in 2004 and at Beijing in 2008 and will hope to play an important role in trying to help Brazil stand on top of the podium at Tokyo.
When Formiga competed at her home Olympics in Rio in 2016, many felt that it could be her final one. However, five years later, she is back once again looking to claim a third Olympic medal. It can be said that Tokyo may well be her final Olympics, but if history is anything to go by, you never know what the future has in store for us.
FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s Formiga celebrates after scoring a goal against Germany during the Beijing 2008 semifinal in Shanghai. – AP
Ma Long (Table Tennis)
The 32-year-old Chinese paddler will feature in his third Olympic Games and will come to Tokyo, having already won three Gold medals in each of his previous two Olympics, in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.
At 32, with already more than 15 years of his experience under his belt, he will be vying for a hat-trick of medals in what could be his last representation at at Olympics.
China’s Ma Long could win a fourth Olympic medal in Tokyo. – Getty Images