India first participated in the Olympics in 1900, when it sent its first-ever athlete, Norman Pritchard who won two medals in athletics. Since the 1920s India has consistently sent a team to the Olympics, with the numbers growing every year.
This year at the Tokyo Olympics, India will be sending its largest-ever contingent, of 124 athletes over 18 sports. India created many firsts this year, with the fencer from India qualifying for the Olympics for the first time. Three Indian swimmers also qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, 2 of them making the A Standard Olympic Qualification Time.
India will also be sending its largest ever boxing and shooting contingents, and the women’s and men’s hockey teams have qualified for the Olympics this year. With this let us take of look at the dynamics of the Indian contingent in the past, and how they have fared.
The Dynamics of India at the Olympics over the Years
1996 Atlanta Olympics
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics saw India send a contingent of 49 athletes, 40 male, and just 9 female. The men’s hockey team comprised the majority of the 49 athletes, sending a team of 16. Leander Paes won India its first medal in tennis, by clinching a bronze medal and ending India’s 44-year drought of Individual medals.
Some notable Indian athletes at the Atlanta Olympics were Leander Paes, Najib Aga, and Mahesh Bhupathi.
2000 Sydney Olympics
At the Sydney Olympics, India sent just 36 sportspeople over 13 sports. Athletics took up the majority of the contingent, with 24 athletes taking part in the Olympics. Field Hockey comprised 16 members, with only the men’s team qualifying for the Olympics.
Wrestling, Judo, and Rowing were the sport with the least representation, with only 1 athlete each. History was created at this Olympics when Karnam Malleswari became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Olympics. Other notable names to perform at the Sydney Olympics were Pullela Gopichand, Ramandeep Singh, Abhinav Bindra, and Leader Paes.
2004 Athens Olympics
The number of athletes doubles in the 2004 Athens Olympics, with 73 athletes representing India at the Olympics, 48 men and 25 women. In a surprise, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore took home the silver medal in the 10m air rifle event.
Field hockey was the most represented event, with 16 players, and the only team event that India qualified for. Wrestling saw a boost this year, with 7 wrestlers qualifying for the Athens Olympics. Some notable names that qualified for the Athens Olympics are Yogeshwar Dutt, Sushil Kumar, Abhinav Bindra, and Shobha Javur.
2008 Beijing Olympics
The 2008 Beijing Olympics saw a slump in representation, with only 56 athletes, 31 men and 25 women qualifying. This was the first time since 1928 that the Men’s hockey team was unable to qualify for the Olympics. Regardless, this was India’s best performance to date, with India bagging 3 medals in total.
History was created for India again, with Abhinav Bindra clinching India’s first gold medal at the Olympics. Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar took bronze medals in Boxing and wrestling respectively.
2012 London Olympics
The Indian contingent bettered its performance this year, bagging a total of 6 medals at the London Olympics, the best medal tally for India till today. A total of 83 athletes were a part of the Indian contingent, 60 men and 23 women competed in 13 sports.
The men’s hockey team was back this year, and shooting had a record number of 11 athletes taking part. Vijay Kumar and Sushil Kumar clinched silver medals for India, while Mary Kom, Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal, and Yogeshwar Dutt won bronze medals.
2016 Rio Olympics
The 2016 Rio Olympics saw a record number of 117 athletes make their way as a part of the Indian contingent, with 63 men and 54 women. The Indian women’s hockey team made a prolific comeback after 36 years, qualifying for the Rio Olympics while the number of track and field athletes increased to 34.
The medal tally unfortunately was dismal, with India winning only 2 medals, a bronze in Wrestling by Sakshi Malik, and a historic silver by PV Sindhu in badminton. However, some notable athletes of the year were Dipa Karmakar, Deepika Kumari, and Shrikanth Kidambi.