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EXPLAINED: Why Hockey Still Sets The Bar For India At The Olympics

India defeated Germany 5-4 in the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Games for their first hockey medal in 40 years (AP Photo)

India defeated Germany 5-4 in the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Games for their first hockey medal in 40 years (AP Photo)

A look at the total medals India has won at the Summer Olympics and how hockey still leads the list although individual medallists have come to the fore of late

With the Summer Olympics set to end on August 8, Tokyo already counts as India’s second-best outing ever since the country took part in its first Games in 1900. The country is just one medal shy of tying its tally of six medals that it won at the 2012 London Games. Tokyo will be remembered for some notable and narrow misses, surprise packages and the breakout showing of the women’s and men’s field hockey teams, with the latter bringing home a medal after 41 years in a sport which has given India all but one of its Olympic gold finishes. Here’s a look at the sports where India has tasted Olympic glory.

What Is India’s Olympic Gold Count?

India has won a total of nine gold medals in the 25 Olympic Games in which it has taken part. Eight of those medals came in hockey with the men’s team stamping their domination on the event, winning six straight golds between 1928 and 1956 (in between no Olympics were held in 1940 and 1944 due to World War II). The remaining two golds came in 1964 and 1980, which was the last year that the country medalled in hockey, before breaking the four-decade duck at Tokyo this year. The country has also bagged one silver and three bronzes in hockey.

The country’s ninth gold was won by shooting ace Abhinav Bindra in the 10m air rifle at the Beijing Games in 2008. Shooting has also given India two silver medallists — Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Athens 2004) and Vijay Kumar (London 2012) along with a bronze, also at London 2012, which was won by Gagan Narang.

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How Many Medals Has India Won In Total So Far?

With Tokyo 2020 still to wrap up, India has a total of 33 medals (all data source: Wikipedia) in its Olympics kitty. Apart from the nine golds, there are nine silver medals and 15 bronzes that the country’s athletes have won.

After hockey, the second-most successful sport for India at the Olympics is wrestling, in which there have been a total of six medals — two silvers and four bronzes — including one of India’s earliest individual honours in KD Jadhav’s third-place finish at Helsinki 1952. Third in terms of medal wins is shooting, which has seen four podium finishes.

Badminton and boxing have given three medals each. Two of the shuttlers’ medals have been won by PV Sindhu, who picked up a bronze in the women’s singles this year to add to the silver she had won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 while the third medal was Saina Nehwal’s bronze at London 2012.

Of the three bronzes in boxing, one came at Tokyo with Lovlina Borgohain’s losing semi-final bid. The other two came in 2008 (vijender Singh) and 2012 (MC Mary Kom).

Who Is India’s Highest Olympic Medal Holder?

With their world-conquering domination, the men’s hockey teams of the mid-20th century have multiple medal winners. Indeed, apart from just three sportspersons — Sushil Kumar, PV Sindhu and Norman Pritchard — no Indian has won multiple individual medals at the Summer Games.

If you’re wondering who Pritchard is, he was a British Indian athlete who won the silver in the 200m and the 200m hurdles at the 1900 Paris Olympics, going down in history as the only Indian so far to have won a track and field medal (although Milkha Singh would come agonisingly close in the 400m at the 1960 Rome Olympics, placing fourth). No Indian has won a medal at the Winter Olympics, team or individual.

But coming to the highest number of Olympic medals in their possession, two Indians — Leslie Claudius and Udham Singh, both hockey veterans — are tied for the distinction with three golds and one silver each. Dhyan Chand has three golds, as does hockey great Balbir Singh Sr., among others.

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first published:August 06, 2021, 19:19 IST