India’s Olympic Foray: A Resurgent Nation

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History was made on 26th May 1928, when the Indian hockey team defeated the Netherlands in Amsterdam, by 3-0, and won India's first-ever Olympic medal, a gold medal. But it was much more than a golden moment.

Match of the Indian team at 1928 Olympics
Match of the Indian team at 1928 Olympics

India was still under British rule and the Olympic win reflected a newfound sense of confidence in India as a nation. It was a push towards self-determination even as the freedom movement gained momentum.

The groundwork for India’s 1928 Olympic triumph had been laid a decade earlier, when Dorabji Tata, who apart from being the scion of the Tata enterprise, became President of the Deccan Gymkhana in Pune.

Dorabji Tata
Dorabji Tata

In 1919, Dorabji Tata noticed that many Indian athletes were peasants who were running barefoot but clocking timings that were close to European standards. So he convinced Llyod George, the Governor of Bombay, to secure an affiliation for India at the Olympic Games.

Indian Olympic delegation 1920: (top row, left to right:) Shindes, Bannerjee, Navale, Chaugule; (middle:) Bhoot, Fyzee; (seated:) Datar, Kaikadi
Indian Olympic delegation 1920: (top row, left to right:) Shindes, Bannerjee, Navale, Chaugule; (middle:) Bhoot, Fyzee; (seated:) Datar, Kaikadi

India’s Olympic debut took place in 1920, in Antwerp, but the athletes didn’t win any medals. During the Paris Olympics of 1924, funding for Indian athletes came in from all over the country. Sadly, this time too, the athletes returned empty-handed.

Indian-Hockey-Team-Berlin-1936
Indian Hockey Team during Berlin Olympics, 1936

The Indian Olympic Association was set up in 1927, with Tata as its President. India participated in the 1928 Amsterdam Games, where it won its first historic gold medal, in hockey. In the years to come, India would bag gold at six consecutive Olympics, until 1956.

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