From Dhyan Chand to PV Sindhu: India’s glorious run at the Olympics

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:

Athletics

Paris 1900: India, before getting independence, started their first-ever Olympic stint with Norman Pritchard at the 1900 Paris Olympics. The first-ever Indian representative in modern Summer Olympics had participated in five men’s events in athletics – 60, 100m, 200m, 110m and 200m hurdles, and ended up winning bronze medals in 200m and 200m hurdles.

Boxing

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 quarterfinals to guarantee a bronze medal before he lost 5–8 to Cuba's Emilio Correa in the semis.

Vijender Singh became the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in boxing
Vijender Singh became the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in boxingVijender Singh became the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in boxing

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 51 kg semi-finals by UK’s Nicola Adams. She managed to win a bronze medal though.

Badminton

London 2012: Saina Nehwal became the first Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal when her opponent, China's Wang Xin, was forced to retire hurt during the match in the semi-finals.

Rio 2016: Nehwal’s feat surely propelled India’s badminton story - in the following Olympics, the contingent and 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.

Hockey

Amsterdam 1928: The Indian hockey team’s tryst with the Olympic gold medal started back in Amsterdam, when Dhyan Chand scored a hattrick against the Netherlands in the final.

Los Angeles 1932: The ‘Indo-British’ team continued their dominance in the 1932 Los Angeles Games as well, where the stalwarts such as Dhyan Chand and Roop Singh led the Indians’ charge and defeated 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 inbred 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, the limelight was hogged by Chinnadorai Desamuthu, who became the youngest Olympic gold medallist for India at 19 years and 272 days of age and the team captain KD Singh 'Babu', who further went on to receive the Helms Trophy in 1953 for being the best hockey player in the world in 1952 and the best sportsman of Asia in 1953.

Melbourne 1956: Another Olympics and another gold medal, India’s sixth consecutive Olympics gold medal 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 defeated new neighbours Pakistan 1-0 in the final.

Rome 1960: India’s unparalleled gold streak in hockey came to an end in the Rome Games 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-finals. 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 a gap edition. After winning thrice and drawing twice in the preliminary round, the Indian team defeated Spain 4-3 to win the gold medal.

Shooting

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.

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.

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.

Weightlifting

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 54 kg category, and becoming the first woman in doing so. She had lifted 110 kg in the "snatch" category and 130 kg in the "clean and jerk" for a total of 240 kg.

Tennis

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.

Leander Paes won India's only Olympic medal in tennis at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Leander Paes won India's only Olympic medal in tennis at the 1996 Atlanta Games.Leander Paes won India's only Olympic medal in tennis at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Wrestling

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 10 km 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.

Sushil Kumar leads the Indian athletes during the Opening Ceremony at London 2012
Sushil Kumar leads the Indian athletes during the Opening Ceremony at London 2012Sushil Kumar leads the Indian athletes during the Opening Ceremony at London 2012

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 60 kg 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 ever, to do so.

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