One can easily expect that India with a huge population of almost 130 billion can have more medals than it has won to date at the Olympics. But sadly that is not the case. Prior to its independence from the British rulers, Indian sportspersons were hugely relying on the favor of their masters. After the independence in 1947 things have hardly changed till the turn of the century for them.
The British masters were replaced by Indian masters, most are either bureaucrats or politicians of the different political parties. Politicians in India are known for not leaving the chairmanship of any sports body till they die. So for most of the years, there were old people holding the top positions in the various Indian Olympic Associations with their old and sold-out ideas.
Yet Indian sportspersons did manage a few Olympic medals since 1900 purely on the basis of their individual brilliance or teamwork. Apart from field hockey whatever individual medals Indians have won are mostly because of individual dedication and hard work.
Let us check how India’s performance at the Olympics to date is. To get the idea in a proper manner about how India managed all its achievements at the Olympics, we need to check it in two parts, pre-independence and post-independence.
India’s performance at the Olympics (Pre-Independence)
Paris (1900) – Norman Pritchard (Athletics) – Silver
Norman Pritchard became the first Indian to win an individual Olympic medal at the modern Summer Olympic Games in Paris when he won two silver medals in men’s 200m and 200m hurdles. He even participated in 60m, 100m, 200m, and 110m hurdles competitions.
Amsterdam (1928) – Men’s Hockey – Gold
This was India’s first-ever hockey Gold Medal at the Olympics. India scored 29 goals and there was none scored against them. The hockey maestro Dhyan Chand scored 14 goals including a hat-trick in the tournament finals.
Los Angeles (1932) – Men’s Hockey – Gold
In a game against Japan, India scored 10 goals at a stroke and all were scored by Roop Singh, the younger brother of Dhayan Chand. The maestro himself scored eight goals in that match. Not only that India did even better against the hosts the USA and won by 24-1.
Berlin (1936) – Men’s Hockey – Gold
It was a hat-trick of gold medals for the Indian hockey contingent at the Berlin Olympics. India gave away only 1 goal against 38 in total and that solitary goal came in the finals against Germany. India defeated hosts by 8-1 in the finals and Dhyan Chand even drew the attention of Hitler.
This was the last Olympics for India prior to their Independence.
India’s performance at the Olympics (Post-Independence)
London (1948) – Men’s Hockey – Gold
Indian hockey continued from where it left prior to the independence of India and also the Second World War. Dhyan Chand got his heir in Balbir Singh Sr. who scored 19 goals in three games. Balbir scored 4 goals against Great Britain in the final to achieve the fourth Olympic Gold for India overall and first after independence.
Helsinki (1952) – Men’s Hockey – Gold
Balbir Singh Sr. scored nine goals including five in the finals against the Netherlands. This is still a record for the highest number of goals by a player in the Olympic finals. This was India’s fifth consecutive Gold in the men’s hockey event of the Olympics.
Helsinki (1952) – KD Jadhav (Wrestling) – Bronze
KD Jadhav or Khashabha Dadasaheb Jadhav had to gather funds from the people to participate in Helsinki Olympics of 1952 and his hard work paid off when he won the bronze medal in the men’s freestyle bantamweight category in a wrestling event.
Melbourne (1956) – Men’s Hockey – Gold
It was a double hat-trick for India’s hockey team when they won the Gold Medal at the Melbourne Olympics of 1956. India conceded no goals in the entire tournament and their captain Balbir Singh Sr. played with a fractured arm in the finals and India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan by a solitary goal.
Rome (1960) – Men’s Hockey – Silver
Indian hockey’s first blink at the Olympics came at Rome. Pakistan took the revenge of the last Olympics and defeated India by 1-0 in the finals.
Tokyo (1964) – Men’s Hockey – Gold
Just four years later Indian hockey team was back to the basics as they won the Gold again in Tokyo Olympics. They managed four wins and two draws at the group stage and again defeated Pakistan by the same margin of 1-0.
Mexico City (1968) – Men’s Hockey – Bronze
Indian hockey took a dip for the first time as European nations were starting to dominate the game and Mexico City Olympics was the first indication of that. India was defeated by Australia in the semis by 2-1 but managed to defeat West Germany in the bronze medal game by 2-1.
Munich (1972) – Men’s Hockey – Bronze
For the second time in a row, India had to manage a bronze medal at the Olympics. Signs of Indian hockey plummeting further were start to be visible. The terror attack on the Israeli contingent delayed the semifinal game by two days and that derailed the rhythm of the Indian hockey team as they lost to the archrivals Pakistan by 2-0 in the semi-finals but then defeated the Netherlands by 2-1 to win the consolation bronze medal.
Moscow (1980) Men’s Hockey – Gold
India’s last gold medal in the men’s hockey event came at the Moscow Olympics. India finished seventh in the 1976 games at Montreal which was their worst performance till that time. In the round-robin stage, India managed three wins and two draws and then won the finals against Spain by 4-3. Since then Indian hockey is facing a long drought of medals, forget gold at the Olympics they have never won a single medal since. The Indian hockey team has finally qualified for the semis in the Tokyo Olympics of 2020.
Atlanta (1996) – Leander Paes (Tennis) – Bronze
India returned home empty-handed thrice before the Atlanta games and Leander Paes won the bronze medal in Tennis, only the second individual post-Independence to win an individual medal at the games. American Tennis star Andre Agassi defeated Paes in the semi-finals but then Paes defeated Italy’s Fernando Meligani and won the bronze for his country.
Sydney (2000) – Karnam Malleshwari (Weightlifting) – Bronze
Karnam Malleshwari created history by becoming the first-ever female athlete from India to win an Olympic medal. She won the bronze medal in Sydney in 54kg weightlifting. In the snatch category, she lifted 110kg weight and 130kg weight in the clean and jerk category, and with that, she scored a total of 240kg.
Athens (2004) – Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Men’s double trap shooting) – Silver
By defeating UAE’s Shaikh Ahmed Almaktoum, army colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore became India’s first shooter to win an Olympic medal and that too a silver. Rathore came back from behind and shoot both the clay targets in men’s double trap shooting. This was India’s first-ever individual silver in the games.
Beijing (2008) – Abhinav Bindra (Shooting) – Gold
India’s finest Olympic moment came in Beijing Olympics when ace shooter Abhinav Bindra won men’s 10m air rifle and secured India’s first-ever individual Olympic gold medal. Bindra shoots 10.8 in his final shot that considered as ‘near perfect.
Beijing (2008) – Vijendra Singh (Boxing) – Bronze
Vijendra Singh became the first Indian boxer to clinch an Olympic medal. He was defeated by Emilio Correa in the semi-finals of the middleweight boxing category but eventually won the bronze game against Ecuador’s Carlos Gongora by 9-4.
Beijing (2008) – Sushil Kumar (Wrestling) – Bronze
After 56 years of waiting India won its second Olympic bronze in wrestling at Beijing when Sushil Kumar won three bouts in a row within 70 minutes after losing the opening bout.
London (2012) – Gagan Narang (Air Rifle Shooting)
After a close final against the Chinese and Italian shooters, Gagan Narang finally won the Bronze medal in 10m Air Rifle Shooting event. The final was so close that at one point in time Narang was almost on the losing side, but later he made a great comeback to win an Olympic medal for his country.
London (2012) – Sushil Kumar (Wrestling) – Silver
Sushil Kumar bettered his previous podium finish by winning a Silver medal in 66kg wrestling at the London games. He was facing severe back pain just before the final and thus he could win silver only. Sushil Kumar was the flag bearer of the Indian contingent at the games and became the only Indian to win two Olympic medals in two consecutive attempts.
London (2012) – Vijay Kumar (Shooting) – Silver
Nobody knew who Vijay Kumar is but he won a silver medal in 25m rapid pistol after battling hard with shooters from China and Cuba. In the end, he had to satisfy with silver.
London (2012) – Mary Kom (Boxing) – Bronze
Mary Com was a household name even before she won a bronze in women’s flyweight boxing. This was the first time that women’s boxing was part of an Olympic game. She gave a great fight to her opponents and won the bronze.
London (2012) – Yogeshwar Dutt (Wrestling) – Bronze
Yogeshwar Dutt was part of three Olympics before this one but came back home empty-handed. He defeated North Korea’s Ri Jong Myong in the bronze match of 60kg category within just 1.02 minutes.
London (2012) – Saina Nehwal (Badminton) – Bronze
Saina Nehwal is the first Indian who won an individual Olympic medal in Badminton. Wang Xin of China had to retire hurt during the match and Saina secured the bronze.
Rio (2016) – PV Sindhu (Badminton) – Silver
PV Sindhu bettered Saina Nehwal’s previous performance in London when she lost the final game against Spain’s Carolina Marine and won the Silver.
Rio (2016) – Sakshi Malik (Wrestling) – Bronze
Sakshi Malik helped India to win three consecutive medals in wrestling by defeating Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan by 8-5 in the 58kg category. What made this win special was that Sakshi Malik was the late choice to be part of the Indian contingent at the Rio Olympic Games.
Tokyo (2020) – Saikhom Mirabai Chanu (Weightlifting) – Silver
Mirabai Chanu faced disappointment in Rio, but in Tokyo 2020 she won the country a silver medal in 49kg weightlifting. She became only the second female weightlifter after Karnam Malleshwari to win an Olympic medal.
Tokyo (2020) – PV Sindhu (Badminton) – Bronze
PV Sindhu became the first-ever female and only second after Sushil Kumar to win two Olympic medals for India. This time too she won the bronze medal in Badminton.
Tokyo (2020) – Lovlina Borgohain (Weightlifting)
Tokyo 2020 is the first Olympics for Lovlina Borgohain who is participating in the 64-69 weightlifting category.
Tokyo (2020) – Vijay Kumar Dahiya (Wrestling) – Silver
After making a grand comeback in the semi-finals, Vijay Kumar Dahiya lost to Zavur Uguev or ROC and managed second Olympic silver medal for India in wrestling. This was India’s 9th sliver overall.
Tokyo (2020) – Men’s Hockey – Bronze
After a long wait of 42 years India’s men’s hockey team won a bronze medal in hockey which they bossed for number of decades in early last century. In a nail biting bronze match against Germany India made a grand comeback and won the game in the last seconds. India was down by 3-2 at one point of time but then it turned the table and won by 5-4.
Tokyo (2020) – Bajrang Punia (Wrestling) – Broze
After Vijay Kumar Dahiya Bajrang Punia became the second Indian wrestler to win a medal at Tokyo 2020. Punia won the medal in 65kg category by defeating Kyrgyzstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov.
Tokyo (2020) – Niraj Chopra (Javelin) – Gold
Niraj Chopra became only the second Indian Olympian to win an Individual gold after Abhinav Bindra, but he has the distinction of winning the first gold medal in track and field events for India. Niraj Chopra threw 87.58m in his second attempt in the finals was enough to secure a gold.
So these are some of the noteworthy performances by Indian athletes in different Olympics. Keep visiting us as we regularly update this space.