India at Olympics: History Part - III

Vineet Ramakrishnan

This is the final part of India at the Olympics series - from 1988 Seoul Olympics to 2008 Beijing Olympics, Indian athletes got 6 individual medals (4 bronze, one silver and one gold). With the dominance of Indian hockey at the Olympics becoming a part of folklore, individual sports like Wrestling, Boxing, Tennis, Shooting took the centre stage and even at the 2012 London Olympics, India’s strongest medal hopefuls are from these sporting disciplines.

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

1988 Seoul: Nothing notable happened for India at this Olympics as PT Usha finished 31st in 400 metre hurdles and the relay team failed to qualify finishing 7th in heats. Lawrence Lemieux, a Canadian sailor in the Finn class who was in second place and poised to win a silver medal abandoned the race to save an injured competitor. He arrived in 21st place, but was recognized by the IOC with a special award honoring his bravery and sacrifice. US diver Greg Louganis won back-to-back titles on both diving events, but only after hitting the springboard with his head in the 3m event final. Christa Luding-Rothenburger of East Germany became the first (and only) athlete to win Olympic medals at the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics in the same year. Tennis returned to the Olympics after a 64-year absence and Steffi Graf added to her four Grand Slam victories in the year by also winning the Olympic title beating Gabriela Sabatini in the final.

1992 Barcelona: Indian hockey team finished a disappointing 7th. In Tennis, the duo of Leander Paes and Ramesh Krishnan lost in the quarter-final after winning two rounds. Both had lost their first round Singles matches. In Archery, Limba Ram reached the Round of 32 and took the 23rd place. The 1992 Summer Games were the last to be staged in the same year as the Winter Games. Following its reunification in 1990, Germany sent a single, unified Olympic team for the first time since the 1964 Games. As the Soviet Union had been dissolved in 1991, the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania sent their own teams for the first time since 1936. The other Soviet Republics competed under the name "Unified Team" and topped the medal charts. The break-up of SFR Yugoslavia led to the Olympic debuts of Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

1996 Atlanta: Leander Paes won a bronze medal in Tennis as he beat Fernando Meligeni, thus becoming the first Indian to win an individual medal since KD Jadhav won bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics more than four decades earlier. In the semifinal, Paes lost to the eventual gold medal winner Andre Agassi. Indian hockey contingent led by Pargat Singh finished a lowly 8th. Carl Lewis won his 4th long jump gold medal at the age of 35. Andre Agassi’s gold medal made him the first man and second player overall (after his wife, Steffi Graf) to win the Golden Slam (Olympic Gold, Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open).

2000 Sydney: Karnam Malleswari won a bronze medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics at Sydney lifting 110 kg in the Snatch and 130 kg in the Clean and Jerk for a total of 240 kg, which made her the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. The Indian hockey team finished 8th. KM Beena Mol advanced to the semifinal of the 400 metres hurdles. In badminton, Pullela Gopichand reached round 16 where he lost to Hendrawan of Indonesia. Gurcharan Singh lost his quarterfinal bout in Men`s Light Heavyweight (81 kg) to Andriy Fedchuk of Ukraine.

Called as the ‘Millennium Games’ the Sydney Games saw the rise of Australian Ian Thorpe when the 17-year-old set a new world record in the 400m freestyle final. Another Aussie hero emerged in track and field as Cathy Freeman won the 400 metres final in front of a jubilant Sydney crowd at the Olympic Stadium. The win made her the first competitor in Olympic Games history who lit the Olympic Flame and then went on to win a gold medal. Cameroon won a historic gold medal over Spain in the Men`s Olympic Football Final.

2004 Athens: Solitary silver was won by shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in Double Trap but the overall performance of the Indian contingent was inspiring. KM Binu qualified for the semifinals with a run of 45.48s in 400 metres. Women`s 4 x 400 metres relay team of Rajwinder Kaur, K. Mathews Beenamol, Chitra K. Soman, Manjeet Kaur and Satti Geetha created a national record en route to the final where they finished 7th. In Women`s Long Jump, with an impressive jump of 6.83 m, Anju Bobby George finished 6th. Abhinav Bindra got the 7th position and Suma Shirur finished 8th in Air Rifle 10m. In Tennis, Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes were placed 4th in Men`s Doubles. Kunjarani Devi finished 4th in flyweight category, weightlifting. The India hockey team again finished a disappointing 8th.

Liu Xiang won gold in the 110 m hurdles, equalling Colin Jackson`s 1993 world record time of 12.91 seconds. This was China`s first ever gold in men`s track and field. Hicham El Guerrouj won gold in the 1500m and 5000m. He became the first person to accomplish this feat at the Olympics since Paavo Nurmi in 1924.

2008 Beijing: India bagged a total of three medals at the Beijing Olympics as Abhinav Bindra won the first ever individual Olympic gold for India in the men`s 10m air rifle shooting event with a total score of 700.5. Sushil Kumar won the bronze in Men`s Freestyle 66 kg event. After losing to Stadnik of Ukraine in the first round, the Indian grappler won three straight bouts in the Repechage Round to clinch the third place. The second bronze for India came in middleweight boxing category. Vijender Singh got the first ever Olympic medal for India in boxing after losing the semifinal to Emilio Correa of Cuba.

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

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