Tokyo 2020: Big blow for top Indian boxers as final Tokyo Olympic qualifiers gets cancelled

Tokyo Olympics: India’s hopes of adding more boxing berth came to an end on Monday after the International Council Committee’s (IOC) cancelled the final boxing qualifier (worlds) for Tokyo 2020. The decision was announced by the IOC’s Boxing Task Force (BTF).

The decision would come as a shocker particularly for men’s and women’s 57kg divisions — which are among India’s strongest weight categories. India has sent contingent in 57kg (previously 56kg) category in three successive categories before Tokyo. Among the hopefuls who will miss out include Commonwealth Games champion Gaurav Solanki (men’s 57kg), 2017 world quarter-finalist Kavinder Bisht (men’s 57kg)and world silver medallist Sonia Chahal (women’s 57kg).

Fifty-three quota places that would have been available at the World Olympic Qualifier 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,” BTF said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Boxing Task Force (BTF) said the changes to the qualification system ensure athletes from all regions have an equal chance to qualify for the Games.

According to Boxing Task force’s ranking and seeding guidelines, ranking points were to be awarded as per the 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 after the European and Pan American qualifiers, there is no chance for India to improve their standings as there are no further ranking competitions left for them.

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, Kavinder Bisht is the highest-ranked boxer at 14th place with 212.5 points. However, the Olympic quota will likely go to Mongolia’s Erdenebatyn Tsendbaatar who is ranked seventh.

In the men’s 81kg division, the highest-ranked Indian boxer is Sachin Kumar at 21st spots. But the Olympic quota will likely go to Uzbekistan’s Dilshodbek Ruzmetov who is ranked sixth. 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 Philippines.

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.”