Nakul Shivani/ New Delhi
The evolution of India as a sporting powerhouse in the world since independence is a study of different phases the country has gone through over the last seven decades.
Achievements in Hockey and Cricket in the years immediately after independence set the tone for Indian sportspersons across different disciplines to spread their wings on a global stage.
Hindustan Meri Jaan: 75 years of Independence
They are success stories of folklore stuff.
In the 75th year of our independence as we celebrate the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, awazthevoice.in looks back at the ten most iconic moments in the history of independent India that have shaped the country’s destiny in the sporting world.
1948 – Hockey: Gold Medal in London Olympics
It is for a reason that the success of the Indian hockey team at the London Olympics is considered epochal.
Just a year earlier, India had lost many key players to Pakistan.
A team of 15 debutants was cobbled together with the mandate to keep the tradition of winning a gold medal at the highest stage alive.
Led by Kishan Lal, India defeated the erstwhile colonial rulers Great Britain in the final 4-1 to win its fourth consecutive gold at the Olympics.
For the first time the Indian tricolor had flown in a victory ceremony. The victory helped India discover its identity as an independent nation and provided the much needed balm to the pain of partition.
1964 – Milkha Singh: 4th at the Tokyo Olympics
Milkha Singh, at that time, was the reigning Asian champion and was tipped to be one of the favorites for the title.
The ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh may have missed an Olympic medal by a whisker, losing out to Malcolm Spence of South Africa in a photo-finish, but his performance gave birth to a million dreams of young Indians making a mark on the international track and field arena.
'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh
1966 – Tennis: Davis Cup Final
The year 1966 is a remarkable year in the history of Indian tennis. It marked India’s entry into the elite club of tennis-playing nations.
The Indian quartet of Ramanathan Krishnan, Jaideep Mukherjea, Premjit Lal, and SP Misra reached the final of the Davis Cup defeating Brazil which had many higher-ranked players.
Even though India lost to Australia in the final, India’s mere presence alongside the powerhouses of world tennis was enough to inspire the next generation of tennis stalwarts – the Amritraj brothers and later Paes, Bhupathi, and Sania Mirza.
1975 - Hockey: World Cup triumph
Ajit Pal Singh led India to its first world cup win in Hockey.
Despite having won seven gold medals at the Olympics, India had failed to win the cup in the previous two editions of the championship.
The victory tasted sweeter as it came against arch-rivals Pakistan in the final.
With the cup coming home, India managed to re-establish itself as the undisputed king in the world of Hockey.
1983 – Cricket: ODI World Cup win
‘Kapil’s Devils’ did something improbable.
The victory over two-time champions West Indies in the ODI cricket world cup final at Lords opened the floodgates to even more success at the world stage in limited overs cricket.
A sleeping giant had just woken up.
Kapil Dev with the 1983 world cup
1986 – Athletics: PT Usha winning four gold medals at the 1986 Asian Games
Known as the ‘Payyoli Express’, even though Usha is remembered more for her fourth-place heartbreak finish at the Los Angeles Olympic games, her epochal moment came at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul.
Taking off the blocks like a cheetah on a hunt, the Kerala-born sprinter won four gold medals to establish herself as the queen of sprints in the Asian continent.
If the medal count was not enough, she even set Asian records in all the events she participated.
1999 – Tennis: First Grand Slam win for Bhupathi-Paes
The Indian duo of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes created history by winning the first grand slam championship title – French Open in 1999.
Popularly known as the ‘Indian Express’ they won the championship and rose to become the world no.1 pair in doubles.
They were to later win the Wimbledon title too and go on to hold the record for the longest streak of doubles victory in Davis Cup.
2008 – Shooting: Abhinav Bindra wins Gold Medal at Beijing Olympics
Abhinav Bindra finally broke a glass ceiling at the olympics for Indian athletes.
By winning the first individual gold medalist for the country, India finally announced its arrival as a powerhouse on the highest sporting stage in the world.
He inspired a generation of olympic hopefuls.
Abhinav Bindra with his Beijing olympic gold medal
2012 – Badminton: Saina Nehwal wins medal at the London Olympics
Saina Nehwal, a Haryanvi who settled in Hyderabad gave Indian girls the license to dream big.
Her bronze medal effort at the London Olympics was monumental for more reasons than one.
Her bronze medal-winning effort in London opened the floodgates for women across geographical boundaries and communities to take up sports seriously.
2020 – Athletics: Neeraj Chopra wins a Gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics
Neeraj Chopra pierced the Tokyo sky with his javelin on a wet afternoon to create history.
He became the first Indian ever to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics.
His effort has made the impossible look possible.