Independence Day 2021: From 1983 Cricket World Cup to Neeraj Chopra’s Olympic gold, India’s greatest sporting achievements
On this celebration of the country’s independence, let’s take a look back at independent India’s 75 years of sporting history, and revisit some of India’s finest moments
India will celebrate its 75th Independence Day on Sunday, and one of the main points of focus will be the athletes that put blood, sweat and tears into their quest for glory at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
So on this celebration of the country’s independence, let’s take a look back at independent India’s 75 years of sporting history, and revisit some of India’s finest moments:
India win Olympic Gold (Hockey) – 1948
India enjoyed a dominant spell in field hockey at the Olympics in the middle of the 20th century, winning six straight gold medals between 1928 and 1956. However, the most special of those was arguably the one that the country won in 1948, seeing as it was the first Olympic medal won by an independent India. The gold medal-winning team was captained by Kishan Lal, and they beat Great Britain 4-0 in the final.
KD Jadhav wins Olympic Bronze (Wrestling) – 1952
KD Jadhav was the first Indian individual medal-winner at the Olympics in the post-independence era. Jadhav was a seasoned wrestler, who had competed in the 1948 Olympics, where he was defeated by Mansour Raeisi of Iran. Four years later, at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, he would make up for his defeat by claiming the bronze medal in the bantamweight category and scripting history.
India win Hockey World Cup – 1975
The first-ever Hockey World Cup was played in 1971, and the second took place in 1973. In both these tournaments, India narrowly missed out on the title, finishing third and second respectively. At the third time of asking, India were finally able to win the title, beating rivals Pakistan 2-1 in the final of the 1975 World Cup. Surjit Singh and Ashok Kumar were the scorers for India in that tie.
Prakash Padukone wins All England Championships – 1980
Prakash Padukone was one of the first individual Indian athletes to make a name for themselves on the global stage, putting in awe-inspiring performances during a time when Indian sport was still in its infancy. Perhaps his most incredible achievement was his victory at the All England Championships in 1980, beating Indonesian rival Liem Swie King in the final.
India win Cricket World Cup – 1983
Led by Kapil Dev, India became ODI champions in 1983 after they defeated two-time winners West Indies at Lord’s, winning the match by 43 runs. India’s win in the 1983 World Cup would go on to birth several generations of cricket fans in the country, thus rubber-stamping its status as a moment of immense significance for sport in the country.
At the 2000 Olympics, Karnam Malleswari became the first-ever Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, when she took home bronze in the 69kg category for weightlifting. Malleswari lifted 110kg in the snatch portion of the contest, and 130kg in the clean and jerk for a combined total of 240kg.
India win T20 World Cup – 2007
In 2007, the Indian cricket team beat fierce rivals Pakistan by 5 runs in the final to claim the first-ever T20 World Cup title. The Indian team had an excellent tournament, losing just once (to New Zealand), and with their title win, they paved the way for the meteoric rise of T20 cricket.
Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal in 2008 was a landmark moment for India, seeing as it was the first individual Olympic gold medal the country had ever won. Bindra managed this feat by shooting a total of 700.5 in the men’s 10-meter air rifle. He shot 596 in the qualifying round, and in the finals, came up with a score of 104.5 which was enough to beat closest rivals Zhu Qinan and Henri Hakkinen.
India win Cricket World Cup – 2011
Just four years after winning the T20 World Cup, India would once again get a taste of success on the global scale, this time in ODI cricket. India beat heavyweights Australia and rivals Pakistan en route to the final, where they faced neighbours Sri Lanka. An excellent all-round performance, including a three-wicket haul for Zaheer Khan and knocks of 97 and 91 from Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni respectively saw India beat Sri Lanka by six wickets.
Viswanathan Anand wins fifth World Chess Championship title – 2012
Viswanathan Anand is India’s undisputed chess king, and for good reason. Anand is a five-time world chess champion, with the first of those titles having come in 2000, when he defeated Alexei Shirov. After that, his next title would come in 2007, and he would go on to defend it three more times, against Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov and Boris Gelfand.
PV Sindhu wins Olympic Silver (Badminton) – 2016
PV Sindhu won a silver medal in her Olympic debut at Rio 2016, after she was defeated by Spain’s Carolina Marin in the final for the women’s singles category. Sindhu enjoyed an excellent campaign in Rio, as she beat heavyweights like Tai Tzu Ying, Wang Yihan and Nozomi Okuhara in straight games on her way to the final. She was the first Indian player to reach a badminton final at the Olympics, and five years after she won silver, she would go on to win another Olympic medal (bronze) in Tokyo.
Indian athletes have traditionally failed to deliver in track and field events, with no Indian having won a medal in the discipline until Neeraj Chopra took home gold in his iconic performance at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Chopra entered the competition on a high, topping qualification with an effort of 86.65m. He was similarly dominant in the final, where his throw of 87.58m saw him finish comfortably in first place.