A brief history of India’s 28 medals at the Olympic Games
India’s participation at the Olympic Games precedes the creation of the nation itself, but it’s largely been this century that has yielded medals of all colours. Here’s a run through, sport-wise, of all the Indians, ‘representatives’ or otherwise, who bagged Olympic medals:
Paris 1900: India, before getting independence, started their maiden Olympic stint with Norman Pritchard at the 1900 Paris Olympics. The first Indian representative in modern Summer Olympics had participated in five men’s events in athletics – 60m, 100m, 200m, 110m and 200m hurdles, and ended up winning bronze medals in 200m and 200m hurdles. He kicked off the list of Indian Olympic winners.
Beijing 2008: Vijender Singh became the first Indian boxer in history to win an Olympic medal. The man from Haryana defeated southpaw Carlos Góngora of Ecuador 9–4 in the quarter-final to guarantee a bronze medal before he lost 5–8 to Cuba's Emilio Correa in the semis.
London 2012: The nation’s newfound love for boxing saw Mary Kom winning a medal four years later. The Manipur-born boxer looked to be on a fine run before she was defeated in the 51kg semi-finals by UK’s Nicola Adams. She managed to win a bronze medal though.
Rio 2016: Nehwal’s feat surely propelled India’s badminton story - in the following Olympics, the nation witnessed PV Sindhu take one step closer to gold by reaching the final of the 2016 Summer Olympics before losing to Spain’s Carolina Marin in a feisty, 83-minute duel.
Amsterdam 1928: The Indian hockey team’s affair with the Olympic gold medal started in Amsterdam, when Dhyan Chand scored a hat-trick against the Netherlands in the final.
Los Angeles 1932: The ‘Indo-British’ team continued their dominance at the 1932 Olympics as well, where the stalwarts such as Dhyan Chand and Roop Singh led the Indians’ charge and upstaged Japan 11-1 to win the final.
Berlin 1936: The gold medals kept piling up for India with Dhyan Chand now reaching the end of his career. However, the legend defied age as India beat Germany 8-1 in the final.
London 1948: The first gold medal for India post independence. Dhyan Chand had walked into the sunset but the pedigree was well ingrained as the Indians went to beat Great Britain 4-0 and win the gold medal.
Helsinki 1952: Winning a gold in the Summer Olympics for the field hockey team was a habit for India by now and they continued that in Helsinki as well by beating the Netherlands 6-1 in the final. However, it was Chinnadorai Desamuthu who took centrestage as he became the youngest Olympic gold medallist for India at 19 years and 272 days.
Melbourne 1956: Another Olympics and another gold medal, it was six-in-a-row for India. But the team’s excellence was highlighted by the fact that they did not concede a single goal in the entire tournament. They got the better of new neighbours Pakistan 1-0 in the final.
Rome 1960: India’s unparalleled gold streak in hockey came to an end in Rome when the side lost to Pakistan 1-0 in the final and had to settle for a silver medal.
Tokyo 1964: The Olympics silver medal was a shot in the arm for the Indian field hockey team and they used the next four years to prepare relentlessly, which paid in the next edition in Tokyo. They faced Pakistan in the final for the third consecutive time and settled the score by beating them 1-0 this time.
Mexico 1968: Arguably the beginning of the downfall of the great Indian hockey regime. After finishing first in the group stage, India went on to lose to Australia 1-2 in the semi-final. They defeated West Germany 2-1 to win the bronze medal while Pakistan won the final by beating Australia.
Munich 1972: The Games which proved India’s hockey to be on shaky grounds. The team topped their group as usual before going on to lose the semi-final 2-0 to Pakistan. However, they beat the Netherlands 2-1 to clinch the bronze medal.
Moscow 1980: Under the able leadership of Vasudevan Baskaran, India went on to win their eighth gold medal in field hockey. After winning thrice and drawing twice in the preliminary round, the Indian team defeated Spain 4-3 to win the gold medal. It remains the last hockey gold for India at the Olympics.
Athens 2004: It was Rajasthan’s Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who became the first shooter to help India get a medal at the Olympics and inspiring an entire generation to take up the sport, the fruits of which the nation is reaping today. Rathore finished second in the Men’s Double Trap event behind UAE and ahead of China. He is India's first individual silver-medallist at the Games.
Beijing 2008: Following the footsteps of Rathore, India saw Abhinav Bindra taking it a level up in the following edition of the tournament as he won the gold medal in Men’s 10m Air Rifle. He remains the only Olympic gold medalist in India.
London 2012: India’s shooting was seen rising from strength to strength in the next edition where Vijay Kumar won the silver medal in Men’s 25m Rapid Pistol Event, while Gagan Narang won the bronze medal in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle.
Sydney 2000: Breaking the norm of only men fetching Olympic medals for the nation, India saw Andhra Pradesh’s Karnam Malleswari clinching the bronze medal this time in the 54kg category, and becoming the first woman in doing so. She had lifted 110kg in the snatch category and 130kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 240kg.
Atlanta 1996: India had gone without a medal of any sort for four straight editions before a young Leander Paes got them to winning ways in 1996 with a bronze. After losing to Andre Agassi in the semi-final, Paes went on to beat Fernando Meligani in the bronze medal match.
Helsinki 1952: At a time when India were epitomizing supremacy in field hockey, Maharashtra’s Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav turned heads by winning the bronze medal in the Men's Freestyle Bantamweight (54 kg) category. It was celebrated by a cavalcade of 151 bullock carts and dhols, who carried Jadhav for about 10km from the station.
Beijing 2008: It took India 56 years to win their second medal in wrestling after Jadhav’s heroic feat in 1952. Sushil Kumar (66kg) went on to win three bouts in the repechage round within 70 minutes to clinch the bronze medal even though he didn’t have a professional masseur tending to him.
London 2012: India’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremony, Sushil Kumar was India’s biggest medal hope in 2012 and he didn’t disappoint either. He went right to the final this time before losing to Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu and settling for a silver medal.
Apart from Sushil Kumar, India also saw veteran Yogeshwar Dutt clinching a medal in wrestling’s freestyle 60kg category as he defeated North Korea’s Ri Jong Myong in the last repechage round to clinch the bronze medal in just 1:02 minutes.
Rio 2016: India saw their third consecutive wrestling medal coming from Sakshi Malik in the women’s 58kg category, where she defeated Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova 8–5 to win the bronze medal. She also became the first Indian female wrestler to do so.