Summer Olympics are kicked off in Japan and all the sportsmen from worldwide are on their toes to perform their best in the most anticipated games. With Mirabai Chanu winning silver in weightlifting, India made its intentions clear for the Olympics.
Hockey, however, is the game where India has shown its dominance for a long time ago. Claiming a maximum of eight golds in the Summer Olympics, India has reserved its spot at the top of the game. It all began in 1928 when the Indian men’s team won their first gold at the Olympics. This continued until 1956 with India earning six consecutive golds in the Olympics. By that time the national time made 178 goals and relinquished just seven. The air was in favour of India and of all the 25 matches, India claimed victory in all.
But facing Pakistan in Rome (1960), India saw its first defeat. India was unbeaten in 30 consecutive matches and scored 197 goals while giving away only eight. A new history was written.
Let’s walk through the outstanding matches played by team India and securing the top position in field hockey.
Dhyanchand was remarkable in Amsterdam
India set its foot in the Olympics in 1928. In the Amsterdam games, the world was introduced to the magic of Dhyanchand. At that time, the country was under British rule. It played a distinctive match, scoring 29 goals and conceding none. Beating the host Netherlands in the final India won its first gold.
Dhyanchand, an eminent player, had scored 14 goals in total with two being scored at the final in the tournament.
“Legend has it that the Dutch officials took his stick apart to see if there was a magnet hidden inside it! One newspaper report described it thus: ‘This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyan Chand is, in fact, the magician of hockey,” stated in a report on Olympics.com.
An exceptional feat in Los Angeles
The noted player Dhyan Chand once again amazed the fandom in Los Angeles Olympics (1932). Observing his ace performance Los Angeles Times titled him the “best athlete” of the Olympic Games. It was a minor event with only three teams playing and Europeans missing the event.
India achieved a record win beating the host USA 24-1. Chand and his brother Roop Singh scored 18 and bashed Japan 11-1 claiming second gold in the Olympics.
Posters were up to watch the greatest of all time in Berlin
Germany hosted the summer Olympics in 1936. Posters were all up over the capital flashing: “Visit the hockey stadium to watch the Indian magician Dhyan Chand in action.”
Under the captainship of stout-hearted player, Chand, the team was considered by some as the greatest squad of all time. Although the beginning wasn’t very exciting, team India, however, managed its win by beating the host in the final.
“Dhyan Chand scored six goals in the 1936 Berlin Olympic final. This despite losing a tooth after a collision with German goalkeeper Tito Warnholtz. Dhyan Chand returned to the field after seeking medical attention and in the second half, he reportedly played barefoot to run faster,” reported Olympics.com.
Representing an Independent country
The 1948 Olympics, held in London, was epoch-making for India. For the first time, the team is going to represent an independent India, not a country under the British raj. Excited to march the tricolour flag, they knew it wasn’t going to be an easy match as two dominions, India and Pakistan, are going to face each other on the podium.
The most respected hockey player of Modern India, Balbir Singh Senior, made India win by defeating its former colonial master on the podium. India won by 4-0 and sealed another Gold.
“As our national anthem was being played and the tri-colour was going up, I felt that I too was flying with the flag. The sense of patriotism that I felt was beyond any other feeling in the world,” said late Balbir Singh at the Chandigarh Press Club, as quoted by the Scroll.in
Another Gold by scoring at the right time in Helsinki
In 1952, administrative interventions vitiated the team build-up for Olympic Games for India. This time Helsinki was chosen to host the most anticipated games.
KD Singh Babu, captain, and his men faced hardships to adapt to the conditions in Finland.
“Nanaji (grandpa) told me that the team would draw the curtains at all times and even used bedsheets to block out the light and make an entirely dark room to be able to get some sleep,” Kabir Singh, Balbir Singh Sr’s grandson, is quoted as telling the Olympic Channel.
The beginning of the tournament wasn’t very exciting but India, like always, managed to rise at the right time. India beats Great Britain 3-1 in the semi-final. Balbir Singh Sr. scored the second of his three Olympic hat-tricks. The last day match was spectacular with Balbir Singh scoring five goals in the final, record goals in the final which remains unbeaten till today, and defeated Netherlands 6-1 to win their fifth consecutive medal.
Balbir Singh stunned everyone in Melbourne
Till now India installed itself as the greatest of the game. This time Balbir Singh led the squad in the Melbourne Olympics (1956). Securing its sixth gold in the games, team India once again was unequalled in the event.
It did not turn over a single goal in the entire tournament, only after the 1928 Olympics.
The final was played between India and Pakistan. With one dominion defeating its former part, India crowned itself preeminent in field hockey. Balbir Singh had not played in any of the Indian hockey team’s matches since his injury.