India has had a long history with the Olympics, first making an appearance at the 1900 Olympics with one lone athlete, Norman Pritchard, who won 2 silver medals in athletics. In the process, Indian also became the first Asian nation to win an Olympic medal.
Since the 1920s India has sent a contingent to the Olympics every time. Over this period, Indian athletes have won a total of 28 medals of which 9 are gold, seven are silver, and 12 are bronze. With the Tokyo Olympics coming close, India will be looking to add to this tally in a big way, with several medal hopefuls a part of the Indian contingent.
Who has won these Olympics medals for us? Let us take a look at Indians who have won medals at the Olympics.
Indians who have won medals at the Olympics
Pre-Independence: 1928, 1932, 1936
The Indian Olympic Association was formed in 1927, and India officially sent its first team to the Olympics in 1928. It comprised the national hockey team as well as seven other athletes who were to represent India at the Olympics. This was the start of Indian domination in hockey at the Olympics. The Indians shocked the world as they managed to bag a gold medal in men’s hockey at the 1928 Olympics, defeating Netherlands 3-0.
The Indian hockey team went on to repeat this feat at 2 more Olympics winning gold medals and successfully defending their titles in the 1932 Olympics as well as at the 1936 Olympics. In the 1932 Olympics, India beat the US 24-1, the largest margin of victory in Olympic history. Some of the notable players on the team during these years were Major Dhyan Chand, Richard Allen, and Roop Singh.
Post-Independence: Hockey Dominance continues from 1948 till 1972
India continued to dominated in hockey, and won a gold medal at the 1948 Olympics by defeating Great Britain, making it India’s first Olympic Medal as an independent nation. The team won two more gold medals, at the 1952 Olympics and the 1956 Olympics. In 1960 however, the team had to settle for a silver medal.
This did not deter them though, as they bounced back and won a gold medal in hockey at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The 1968 Olympics were a disappointment, as the Indian hockey team came back with only a bronze medal. The 1972 Olympics were the same, with India only managing a bronze medal in hockey. They came back empty-handed in 1976 ending their dominant streak of over 40 years.
Some notable Indians who have won medals at the Olympics in hockey during these years are Leslie Claudius, Balbir Singh, and KD Singh to the only name a few
1952 Olympics: India’s first Individual Olympic Medal
1952 saw another big triumph for India, when KD Jadhav won a bronze medal at the Olympics in wrestling, becoming the first athlete from independent India to win an individual medal at the Olympics.
Jadhav first made his appearance at the 1948 Olympics, where he unfortunately did not make it past the 6th round. He, however, stunned the world by beating Australian wrestler Bert Harris in just a few minutes. As a result of his success even though he was unfamiliar with the mat, he went on again at the 1952 Olympics, where he created history by becoming one of the first Indians who have won medals at the Olympics.
|1952||KD Jadhav: Wrestling- Bantamweight category||Bronze|
1980 Olympics: India’s Hockey team makes a comeback; 1996, 2000 and 2004: India only took home one medal each year
In 1980, India’s men’s hockey team made a stellar comeback, winning a gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Games under the captainship of Vasudevan Baskaran. This is India’s last Hockey medal to date and India had to return home empty-handed for the next 3 Olympics.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, India struck bronze, when Leander Paes clinched a medal in Men’s Tennis Singles for India. This ended India’s drought of medals, and was also the first Individual medal since 1952, as well as the first and last medal India achieved in tennis. Leander Paes became a legend, and another one of the Indians who have won medals at the Olympics.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, history was created once again. Karnam Malleswari won a bronze medal in weightlifting, becoming the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Olympics. Another one of the Indians who have won medals at the Olympics include Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who took a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, in men’s double trap shooting.
|1996||Leander Paes- Tennis||Bronze|
|2000||Karnam Malleswari- weightlifting||Bronze|
|2004||Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore- double trap shooting||Silver|
2008 Beijing Olympics: India’s First Individual Gold by Abhinav Bindra
In 2008 history was created once again, when Abhinav Bindra won India its first individual gold medal at the Olympics in the 10m air rifle event. Vijender Singh won India’s first boxing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by winning a bronze in the middle weight category.
Sushil Kumar won medals at 2 successive Olympics becoming the first Indian to do so, when he won a bronze in wrestling at the Beijing Olympics and then won and bettered his record by winning a silver at the 2012 London Olympics.
|2008||Abhinav Bindra- shooting||Gold|
|2008||Vijender Singh- Boxing||Bronze|
|2008||Sushil Kumar- Wrestling||Bronze|
2012 Olympics: India’s biggest medal haul yet
The 2021 London Olympics saw India’s biggest medal haul to date, with athletes bagging a total of 6 medals for India. Sushil Kumar bettered his performance at the 2012 London Olympics by winning a silver medal in wrestling, while Vijay Kumar took another silver for India in the 25m rapid fire pistol. Gagan Narang continued India’s winning streak in shooting by winning a bronze in the 10m air rifle event.
2012 was the first times women’s boxing was introduced in the Olympic Games, and Mary Kom became the first Indian woman to win a medal in boxing in the women’s flyweight category. This Olympics also saw a first in badminton for India, with shuttler Saina Nehwal winning a bronze for the country. Finally, Yogeshwar Dutt took bronze in 60kg men’s freestyle wrestling, to round up India’s medal tally.
|2012||Vijay Kumar– shooting||Silver|
|2012||Gagan Narang– shooting||Bronze|
|2012||Sushil Kumar– Wrestling||Silver|
|2012||Saina Nehwal- Badminton||Bronze|
|2012||Mary Kom- Boxing||Bronze|
|2012||Yogeshwar Dutt- Wrestling||Bronze|
2016 Rio Olympics: The year of the Women
The 2016 Rio Olympics gave India only 2 medals and both of them were proudly present by women. In wrestling, Sakshi Malik won a bronze medal and became the first Indian woman to record a medal in wrestling.
PV Sindhu won India its other medal at the Rio Olympics, winning a silver medal in badminton. She became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal, as well as the youngest Indian Athlete to win a medal at the Olympics. Dipa Karmakar, although she did not win a medal, made a big impact on the world when she came fourth in gymnastics, a sport almost unheard of in India.
|2016||Sakshi Malik- Wrestling||Bronze|
|2016||PV Sindhu- Badminton||Silver|
This brings India’s total medal tally to 28 medals to date, with a record number of 11 medals in field hockey over the years. Sushil Kumar remains the only Indian of independent India to win multiple individual Olympic medals for India. Abhinav Bindra is the only Indian to win an Individual gold medal for India at the Olympics.
India will be sending its largest contingent to the Tokyo Olympics this year and is predicted to win the most medals it ever has, and India’s hopes for its athletes are high.