The biggest festive season, the Olympic games are at our doorsteps after a rare wait of 5 years. Over its rich 125 years history, the Games have witnessed almost everything- from underdog stories to ‘over the years’ dominance, but no other country has dominated a particular event like the Indian Men’s Hockey team back in the day.
Such was India’s dominance on the hockey field, that they won a whopping 10 consecutive medals at the Olympics including 6 consecutive Golds.
India’s golden run at the Olympics
India’s golden run started about 20 years before its independence. Competing as a British colony in 1928, India won the gold medal beating hosts, Netherlands in the final. The dominant Indian side scored 29 goals in just 5 matches and conceded none. This was the first time the world witnessed the magic of Major Dhyan Chand, widely regarded as one of the finest hockey players of all time. He scored 14 goals in the Amsterdam Games and was the highest goal scorer, 9 ahead of the second place.
India went on to win the gold at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics again. They thrashed USA 24-1 where Dhyan Chand scored 8 goals while his younger brother, Roop Singh scored a whooping 10 goals. They also beat Japan 11-1 where the brothers scored 7 goals.
India’s dominance reached new heights at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. They scored 38 goals throughout the tournament while only 1 was scored against them. They beat a formidable German side on their soil in the final and thrashed them 8-1. The ‘wizard’ Major Dhyan Chand scored 4 goals in the final, in the presence German dictator Adolf Hitler in the stands. It is also said that Hitler was so impressed with Dhyan Chand’s skills that he offered him German citizenship and a position of Colonel in the German Army, which Dhyan Chand refused. Berlin was Dhyan Chand’s last Olympics and the legend said farewell with 33 goals in just 12 matches.
The 1948 Olympic gold at the London Games was India’s first Gold post Independence. They once again beat the home side and conceded just 2 goals throughout the tournament. London 1948 also marked the rise of the Pakistani Hockey team and embarked the first ever India-Pakistan sporting rivalry. India once again won gold at Helsinki 1952, their 5th consecutive Olympic Gold.
In the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, India beat a very tough Pakistan team in the final 1-0 to win Gold. But it was Pakistan that stopped India’s unbeatable run in the Olympics. They got the better of the Indian team 1-0 in the 1960 Rome final to win their first ever Olympic gold and stop India’s run of 6 consecutive Golds. India had to settle for Silver. But the Indian team bounced back the very next games, as they beat Pakistan 1-0 in the final of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Indian hockey seemed to be on a decline in the following years, but the team still managed to win 2 bronze medals in the next two games- Mexico City 1968 and Munich 1972. India finished 7th in the 1976 Montreal Games, thus ending an unbelievable streak of 10 consecutive Olympic medals.
India’s last Olympic medal came at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where they beat a tough Spanish side 4-3 in the final to win their 8th Gold medal.
India’s chances at Tokyo 2020
For the first time since Sydney 2000, India have a realistic chance to win a medal in Hockey. The Indian Men’s Hockey team is currently ranked 4th in the world and amongst the other 11 participating team, has beaten all but Canada in the last two years. It is to be noted that Indian boys haven’t played Canada in these two years.
In the last few years, the team has risen in the ranks with a win at the 2014 Asian games and successive silver medals at the Champions Trophy (2016 and 2018).
India is placed in Group A with hosts and Asian Games champions Japan, New Zealand, Spain, defending champions Argentina and world no.1 Australia. Needless to say, it will not be easy in any means for India but they are expected to cruise into the quarterfinals.
In recent years, getting past the knockout stage has been the most difficult job of the Indian team but they can realistically reach the semifinals if they get a good draw. They can face the either of the mighty Europeans in the last 8- Belgium, Great Britain, Netherlands or Germany.
In conclusion, India has the team to beat any side of their day. They have shown this in recent past and will look to repeat it again. The Indian defense has some fresh faces and with the right mindset, they have a solid chance to atleast reach the semifinals if they hold their nerves. After the semifinals, it could be anyone’s game, and who knows, 5th August could be the day India end their 41 year medal drought!