The case of Norman Pritchard is as enigmatic as it gets. Record books suggest that Pritchard, of British decent, was an Indian athlete and the first from the country to take part in Olympics. Going by this, he becomes the first ever medal winner from the country. He won two silver medals in 1900 Paris Games in 200m dash and 200m hurdles. However, there are contrarian opinions claiming that Norman never represented India and actually was a British colonial living in India and was chosen to represent Great Britain at the 1900 Paris Games.
KD Jadhav: The forgotten hero
Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was independent India`s first ever Olympic medal winner. He fought official apathy and overcame financial crunch to win a bronze medal in wrestling at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Khashaba`s interest in the sport began at an early age as his father introduced him and his four elder brothers with the game. After finishing 6th at the 1948 Olympic Games, Jadhav fought his way to represent India at London Olympics. His trip was sponsored by close friends, well wishers and teachers. He defeated wrestlers from Canada, Mexico and Germany, to win bronze medal on 23rd July 1952. Thus he created history that was only repeated in 1996. The government, to honour his feat, re-christened the wrestling venue in the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex in New Delhi as K. D. Jadhav Stadium.
After a gap of over four decades, Leander Paes, had the Indian flag flying at the medal presentation ceremony at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He won a bronze medal in the single event of Lawn Tennis by defeating Fernando Meligeni of Brazil. His journey to the finals was blocked by American great Andre Agassi who eventually won the gold medal. Paes, whom Agassi describes as a flying jumping bean, a bundle of hyperkinetic energy, has been the torch-bearer of Indian tennis after turning professional in 1991.
Karnam Malleswari, a weightlifter from Andhra Pradesh, became the first Indian women to win an Olympic medal in the team or individual category in 2004 at Sydney Games. She lifted 110kg in the Snatch and 130 kg in the Clean and Jerk for a total of 240 kg. In 1995, Malleswari had won the world weightlifting title in her class (54 kg) with a new record, by lifting 113.0 kg.
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore`s silver medal in Men`s Double Trap at 2004 Athens Games was the best individual performance by an Indian post independence. His exploits made him a national hero and a poster boy for Indian army. The sports loving lad from Rajasthan had interest in cricket but his fate brought him to National Defence Academy and from there he emerged as an ace shooter.
Son of a driver, Sushil Kumar not only realised the dream his father once harboured but also put Boprala on wrestling map of the world by winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Sushil defeated Leonid Spiridonov of Kazakhstan 3:1. This was the first time in 56 years an Indian had managed to win a medal in wrestling. He continued his exploits with a gold medal in 2010 World Wrestling Championship in Moscow.
Abhinav Bindra`s name was forever etched in the history of Indian sports when he became the first individual Olympic gold medalist from India. He won the 10 m Air Rifle event in 2008 Beijing Olympics and is also the current world champion. For his feat, the ever smiling Bindra has been bestowed with numerous accolades and cash prizes.
The first boxer from India to win an Olympic medal, tall and handsome, Vijender Singh became a darling of the Indian media that otherwise can`t get enough of its all pervading cricket stars. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Vijender booked his bronze medal defeating Carlos Góngora Mercado of Ecuador. Keeping aside the skepticism raised over his appearances in the glamour world, he proved his detractors wrong with a bronze medal at 2009 World Championships in Milan.
Hockey: The Golden Game
Hockey was the first sport that had the world take notice of Indian presence at Olympics. For 28 years, Indian hockey team at the biggest sports carnival, the Summer Olympics, was unbeatable. The sheer dominance was accentuated by the fact that the British played against an Indian team only when after it ceased to be their colony. This they did, apparently, to avoid the humiliation of getting defeated by one of their colonies. Hockey has earned India a total of 11 Olympic medals. This includes eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals and the last of those, a gold medal, came way back in 1980 at Moscow Games. The whole world would gasp in awe as Dhyan Chand and his teammates displayed their magic with the hockey sticks enthralling thousands of fans all over the planet, making India the undisputable champion team.