India's Olympic moments: Hockey's golden run

Olympic Gold winning Indian Hockey players

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.

In fact, looking at that record it seems we missed out on two gold in 1940 and 1944, the editions that got abandoned due to the World War II.

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.

But things haven't been the same since our last golden Olympic year 1980, and less than ten days from London Olympics, that optimism, though not at its peek, is brewing once again. On that note, let's live through that golden phase of Indian hockey.

Amsterdam 1928: The beginning of a golden era

The initiation of the golden run incidentally also saw the birth of a hockey legend – Major Dhyan Chand. He burst into the limelight as the event's top scorer with 14 goals, which included a hat-trick performance in the final against the Dutch. Such was India's dominance that the team didn't concede even a single goal in five matches.

  • India beat Austria 6-0
  • India beat Belgium 9-0
  • India beat Denmark 5-0
  • India beat Switzerland 6-0
  • Final: India beat Holland 3-0

Los Angeles 1932: A low-key affair, but gold is gold

With the competition reduced to just three participating nations – India, United States and Japan – India emerged overwhelming favourites. It reflected in the two wins that earned India their second consecutive gold. They beat USA 24-1 with 10 goals from Roop Singh and eight from Dhyan Chand, before which they hammered Japan 11-1.

  • India beat Japan 11-1
  • India beat United States 24-1

Berlin 1936: Dhyan Chand's swansong

By now, Dhyanchand was 31 and after establishing himself the undisputed hockey wizard, he decided to quit the game while captaining the team in Berlin. The gold-medal match against Germany was witness to a famous Dhyan Chand anecdote. In a collision with the aggressive German goalkeeper Tito Warnholtz, Dhyan Chand lost a tooth and had to be attended on the sidelines. But upon returning, Dhyan Chand – understandably angry over the incident – took the team in a huddle urging them to teach the Germans a lesson.

What followed was an act of sheer artistic control. The Indians repeatedly took the ball into the German circle but refused to shot at goal, returning back into their half. That left the Germans humiliated. Meanwhile, India won the match by a thumping 8-1 margin, thereby completing a hat-trick of Olympic gold.

  • India beat Hungary 4-0
  • India beat USA 7-0
  • India beat Japan 9-0
  • Semi-final: India beat France 10-0
  • Final: India beat Germany 8-1

London 1948: A reason to smile post partition horror

For the Indians trying to recover from the mayhem that Indo-Pak partition caused, the first hockey team of independent India – in which every player was making his Olympic debut, including the legendary Leslie Claudius and Balbir Singh Sr. – once again became the reason to smile.

  • India beat Austria 8-0
  • India beat Argentina 9-1
  • Quarter-final: India beat Spain 2-0
  • Semi-final: India beat Holland 2-1
  • Final: India beat Britain 4-0

Helsinki 1952: Fifth gold in a row

KD Singh Babu and Balbir Singh Sr. became household names after this edition, with the latter scoring nine of India's 13 goals. Following the event, KD Singh Babu was bestowed upon the titles of 'Best Sportsman of Asia' and the 'Best Hockey Player in the World'. Having received a bye in the first round, India went on to beat Australia, Great Britain and Holland to win their fifth gold.

  • Quarter-final: India beat Austria 4-0
  • Semi-final: India beat Great Britain 3-1
  • Final: India beat Holland 6-1

Melbourne 1956: Six in the kitty

India repeated their record of 1928 by not conceding even a single goal on their way to gold. Led by Balbir Singh, India beat archrivals Pakistan in the final by a solitary goal.

  • India beat Afghanistan 14-0
  • India beat USA 16-0
  • India beat Singapore 6-0
  • Semi-final: India beat East Germany 1-0
  • Final: India beat Pakistan 1-0

Tokyo 1964: Gold returns on India's chest

Pakistan was by now gaining momentum in world hockey, especially after ending India's golden run in 1960. However, it was foolish if anybody counted the six-time champions out, who eventually went on to avenge the defeat of previous Games from Pakistan in the final. It was a taxing tournament for the team, playing nine matches in 12 days.

  • India beat Belgium 2-0
  • India drew with Germany 1-1
  • India drew with Spain 1-1
  • India beat Hong Kong 6-0
  • India beat Malaysia 3-1
  • India beat Canada 3-0
  • India beat Holland 2-1
  • Semi-final: India beat Australia 3-1
  • Final: India beat Pakistan 1-0

Moscow 1980: Weak competition allows India break 16-year gold draught

India's passage to their eighth Olympic hockey gold became easy after 71 per cent of the medal-winning nations from the 1976 Montreal Olympics boycotted the Moscow Games. The boycotting hockey nations included the three medal-winning countries from Montreal – New Zealand (gold), Australia (silver) and Pakistan (bronze).

The European hockey giants Germany and Holland also did not participate owing to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That helped India go top of the podium from seventh in the previous edition.

  • India beat Tanzania 18-0
  • India draw with Poland 2-2
  • India draw with Spain 2-2
  • India beat Cuba 13-0
  • India beat USSR 4-2
  • Final: India beat Spain 4-3

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