India at Olympics: History Part - I


The Olympic history is replete with momentous occasions and phenomenal achievements. The Games can very well be regarded as the kaleidoscope through which one can see the world evolving, changing and coming together like none other. The Olympic Games have been the coliseum for athletes to showcase their supreme abilities and for the countries to brandish their authority through sports. USA reigned supreme at the Olympics for over four decades as they did at the socio-economic front, USSR became invisibles at the Games and their dissolution had its effect at the Games as well and China’s significant ascendancy in the world map was duly noted and replicated at the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately, same can’t be said about our own country, India. Hockey did hold its own aura for a bit but overall the subcontinent giant`s presence has not been that impressive at the Games. According to Wikipedia, India has the lowest number of Olympic medals per capita.

CLICK TO READ: India at Olympics: History Part - II» | India at Olympics: History Part - III»

So, here is a look at India’s disappointing journey at the Olympics so far.

1900 Paris - The first appearance of India at the Olympics came in the 1900 Games in Paris and the representation was under the Union Jack. Ironically, an Englishman, Norman Pitchard lead the delegation, rather was the only delegation from India. Pritchard came second in the 200 metres (Silver medal) behind Walter Tewksbury of the United States and second in the 200 metres (Silver medal) hurdles behind Alvin Kraenzlein of the United States.

1920 Antwerp - After missing three Olympics since participating in 1900, India finally sent a team to the Olympics for the first time. A lot of first were associated with the Antwerp, Belgium Olympics. The 1920 Olympics were the first to unveil the official ‘five-ring’ Olympic flag. In addition, the Olympic Oath was first taken in 1920, plus doves were released at the Games as a symbol of peace. Three athletes (Purma Bannerjee: 100m and 400m, Phadeppa Chaugle: 10,000m, Marathon and Sadashir Datar: 10,000 m and Marathon) and two wrestlers (Kumar Navale and Randhir Shinde) represented India in 1920. None of them won any heats or rounds.

1924 Paris - With hockey dropped from the games due to lack of controlling authority, India sent 7 member athletics team to Paris. Long Jumper Dalip Singh was ranked third but failed to qualify for the finals whereas hurdler C. K. Lakshmanan was ranked 5th in the quarterfinals of 110m hurdles. Long distance runner Pala Singh ran the 1500m and 5000m and was placed in the 6th and 10th position respectively. James Hall, Terence Pitt and Wilfred Hildreth participated in the 100m dash but failed to qualify. In Marathon, Mahadeo Singh came in at the 29th position.

1928 Amsterdam - Led by Jaipal Singh, Indian field hockey team won gold emphatically defeating hosts the Netherlands 3-0 in the finals, a winning streak that they would continue till the 1956 Games. Such was India`s domination at the games that they scored 26 goals before the finals conceding zero goals. Dhyan Chand topped the goal charts with 15 hits to the nets followed by Indians Feroze Khan (5) and George Marthins (5). And thus a legacy started.

1932 Los Angeles - First games in the American subcontinent and India triumphed at field hockey once again and en route to the domination mauled the hosts USA 24-1. Only three nations participated in hockey and despite being destroyed by India, the USA hockey team still finished with a bronze medal. Four athletes also participated this year with Bunoo Sutton, Ronald Vernieux, Mehar Chand Dhawan and Dickie Carr all participating in the 4 x 100m relay as well apart from their individual events.

1936 Berlin - If this Olympics was about ‘Hitler’ for the world, for India it was all about Major Dhyan Chand. The magician mesmerised the world, not to leave out Hitler himself. The team thrashed Germany 8-1 for their third consecutive gold in the event. India had also sent in teams from wrestling and swimming apart from athletics.

1948 London - Gold came in the hockey event, but a significant one at that, as Great Britain participated after a long gap only to be beaten by their ex-slaves. GB had not sent a hockey team to the Olympics ever since India started competing in the event since they feared losing to India and the ignominy that would have followed thereafter of masters coming second to their slaves. Another notable performance came from the bare footed Indian football team lead by Dr. Talimeren Ao. Also, a 21-year old wrestler, Khashaba Jhadav showed glimpses of his supreme skill finishing 6th in the freestyle category.

1952 Helsinki - Sans Dhyan Chand, the hockey team were able to capture gold again, but a significant moment came from the wrestling arena as Khashaba Jhadav won bronze in the Men`s Freestyle Bantamweight, thus becoming the first Indian origin person to win an individual Olympic gold for the country.

1956 Melbourne - What could have matched a 1-0 victory over Pakistan for an Olympic gold? You would say nothing... well, probably Indian football’s greatest achievement ever might as well be the closest to it and both happened at the Melbourne Games. Neville D’Souza scored the first hattrick for his country as India defeated Australia 4-2 and took India to the semifinals, the first Asian country to do so at the Olympics. The team finished 4th.

1960 Rome - The Olympic of disappointment and heartbreak for India as Pakistan ended India’s dominance in hockey, by winning their first ever gold as Pakistan defeated their arch rivals 1-0. This was also the edition were the ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh came agonizing close to a medal in the 400m. He finished 4th, a decision reached only through a photo finish. 1960 games also saw Ethiopian runner, Abebe Bikila, became the first black African Olympic Champion, running the marathon – barefoot! Rome Olympics also witnessed the rise of one of the sports iconic personalities in the boxing arena, Cassius Marcellus Clay, better known as Muhammad Ali who won the light-heavyweight gold medal for USA.

CLICK TO READ: India at Olympics: History Part - II» | India at Olympics: History Part - III»

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