Dhyan Chand and the 1936 Olympics


Dhyan Chand and the 1936 Olympics

WhatsApp Image 2020 08 29 at 1.14.01 AM

Today is the birth anniversary of hockey great Maj. Dhyan Chand. A player said to have exceptional, even supernatural skills, he is rightly called the ‘Wizard of Hockey’. He has the same status in the sport that Donald Bradman has in cricket.

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While India had won 2 consecutive golds in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics where Dhyan Chand had featured as a player, it was in Berlin 1936 that his legend got truly immortalised.

There is an often-cited story where Dhyan Chand’s play impressed Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler so much that the Führer offered to make Dhyan Chand a colonel in the Nazi German army. The hockey maestro of course declined the offer.

This was after the Indian team, captained by Dhyan Chand himself, thrashed the Germans 8-1 in the finals, in front of the entire Nazi leadership. This was India’s 3rd successive Olympic gold, and Dhyan Chand’s finest hour as player and captain.

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The Indians had earlier in the tournament routed Hungary 4-0, United States 7-0, Japan 9-0, and France 10-0. A total of 30 goals without conceding any in return.

After the gold medal victory, a hockey club in Vienna reportedly built a statue of Dhyan Chand with four arms and four sticks, so much were the Europeans stunned by the Indian’s mastery.

The Berlin Olympics would prove to be the last major tournament for Dhyan Chand and much of his Indian team. World War 2 deprived them the chance of further glories. The Major has retired as a player by the time the Olympics returned in 1948.

Nevertheless his legend was already secured. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956. His birthday, the 29th of August is celebrated as ‘National Sports Day’. It is surprising that a player of his caliber has not been awarded the Bharat Ratna. That is a debate for another day.

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Today is the day we should celebrate and take inspiration from one of the most exceptional Indians of the 20th century.

Also Read: Hockey: India’s Olympic glories