The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896 and it took India only four years before seeing their first representation at the Summer Olympic Games. It all started for India in 1900 when they sent the athlete Norman Pritchard to Paris where he won two medals in Men’s 200 meters and Men’s 200 meter hurdles. Till date, India has participated in every Summer Games since 1900, sending their first Olympic team in 1920 comprising four athletes and two wrestlers. It was, however, not till 1928 that India saw its next medal, after which there have been several Olympic medals obtained. Today India holds a total of 28 Olympic medals and seems to be improving its performance at the Olympics.
The Indian hockey team dominated the Olympics from 1928 for decades to come, winning an unprecedented 3 gold medal titles. The dominance of India’s hockey team started in 1928 in Amsterdam, when Dhyan Chand scored a hat-trick against the Netherlands in the final. Major Dhyan Chand is revered today as one of the greatest sportsman in India, and also the greatest player in the history of hockey. By the Berlin Olympics in 1936, the gold medals had piled up for India and London 1948 was the first gold medal post-independence for India. The Indian team kept winning until 1960 when the gold streak was finally broken.
In Beijing 2008, Vijender Singh became the first Indian boxer in history to win an Olympic medal. Then in London 2012, India’s newfound love for boxing saw Mary Kom winning a bronze medal for the country. With her win, Mary Kom had become, and remains to be a role model for Indian women wanting to get involved in sports.
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was the first shooter to help India get a medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and inspired an entire generation to take up the sport. Following his footsteps, Abhinav Bindra won the gold medal in Men’s 10m Air Rifle at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He remains the only individual Olympic gold medalist in India and perhaps the most notable among the Indian Olympic winners.
India had gone without a medal of any sort for four straight editions before Leander Paes won a bronze medal in 1996. After losing to Andre Agassi in the semi-final, Paes went on to beat Fernando Meligani in the bronze medal match. The medal was a huge achievement for India as they had returned without a medal for many years before Paes won in Atlanta.
Breaking the norm of only men fetching Olympic medals for the nation, India saw Andhra Pradesh’s Karnam Malleswari clinching the bronze medal in the 54kg category at Sydney 2000, becoming the first woman in doing so. She had created history, and after her many female athletes would follow to win medals for India.
In 1952, Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav had created history by becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in an individual sport at the Helsinki Olympics. The sport was wrestling, and he had won a bronze medal for it. After that in 2008, Sushil Kumar clinched a bronze medal in wrestling after a great deal of struggle and effort. Furthermore, in a traditionally male-dominated sport, Sakshi Malik became the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal with her bronze medal finish in the Women’s freestyle 58 kg category at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In London 2012, Saina Nehwal became the first Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal when her opponent, China’s Wang Xin, was forced to retire hurt during the match in the semi-final. She was the first Indian athlete to win an Olympic bronze medal in the women’s badminton singles. In the following 2016 Rio Olympics, the nation witnessed PV Sindhu take one step closer to gold by becoming the first Indian shuttler to reach an Olympic final in the 2016 Games. She was not able to clinch the victory but won a silver medal in the Olympics. She was also the youngest Indian (21 years old) to achieve this feat.
Every single Indian medal winner may not be mentioned in this Article, but it is important to highlight that every single person who has won a medal for India must be respected, whether that medal is bronze, silver or gold. The Olympics are a worldwide event with the highest level of competition possible, so we should be proud of those who have won for India.