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Winning the Cricket World Cup twice over is a feat that will be remembered for a long time. But India’s sporting highs since the 1920s are spread across diverse games like hockey, wrestling, shooting, badminton, chess, and athletics as well. We take a look at the 10 top achievements on the sporting field by Indian sports persons.
The Indian men’s hockey team won the gold medal at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games. Thus began a glorious 28-year-old dominance in world hockey with India winning the gold medal in all the Olympics till the 1956 Melbourne Games.
Khashabha Dadasaheb Jadhav was India’s first individual Olympic medalist. He got his first break at a college wrestling competition in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, and never looked back after that. Though he had competed at the 1948 London Olympics, he faced hurdles at the selection stage before finally making it to the wrestling squad for the 1952 Helsinki Games. The “pocket dynamo”, as he was referred to, returned triumphant after winning the bronze medal in the freestyle wrestling category.
The 1960 Rome Games saw Milkha Singh create a new Olympic record but he still missed a medal by a fraction of a second. However, this feat ensured that the Flying Sikh, as he came to be called, went down in history as one of the greatest athletes India has ever produced. He has one Commonwealth Games gold medal, three individual Asian Games gold medals and one team Asian Games gold medal (in the 4X400 m relay). His exploits on the athletics track have been made famous by a biopic on his life, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
The 1975 Hockey World Cup gave Indians a moment they would cherish forever. The men’s hockey team led by Ajit Pal Singh defeated arch-rivals Pakistan by 2-1 in a keenly contested game. The victory in the final match came after a hard-fought campaign against teams like Olympic champions Germany and hosts Malaysia. The winning goal against Pakistan was incidentally scored by Ashok Kumar, son of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand.
When Prakash Padukone stepped on to the court for the final of the All England Championship in 1980, he was high on confidence, having recently won the Danish Open and Swedish Open titles. He was taking on the defending champion and world badminton number one, Indonesia’s Liem Swi King, but an excellent strategy and some fine badminton saw Padukone come up with a historic win. The only other Indian to have won the All England Championship is Pullela Gopichand, Padukone’s protégé, who did so in 2001.
Few Indians expected history to be created when Kapil Dev and his team set out for the 1983 cricket World Cup in England. Captain Kapil Dev’s blistering 175 not out against Zimbabwe set the tone for an outstanding performance by India, with the bat as well as the ball. India came up against defending champions West Indies in the finals and managed to score a modest 183 batting first. But the bowlers produced some fine spells and the West Indies were bowled out for 140. The cricketing world was stunned and the entire nation erupted in joy.
Having become an International Grandmaster in 1988, Vishwanathan Anand won a series of championships which made him a force to reckon with in the world of chess. In 2007, he won the FIDE World Chess Championship in Mexico which saw participation from most of the top players in the world and proved why he was the best in the business. He ended with the most wins and did not lose a single game in the championship.
Having won two gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore went in as a strong medal hope at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He did not disappoint and won the silver medal in the men’s double trap event. He thus became the first Indian to win an individual silver medal at the Olympics. The win was a remarkable achievement for the Indian Army officer who had taken to shooting as a serious sport only in 1998.
The Beijing Olympics held in 2008 saw the arrival of a new hero. Abhinav Bindra shot his way to the gold medal in the 10 m air rifle event. He became the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal. Before this, India had won gold medals only in a team event, hockey, the last of which came in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. At Beijing, Bindra was fourth after qualifying but came up with some brilliant shooting in the final round to emerge victorious.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni led the Indian team to a famous ICC World Cup victory at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on 2 April 2011. The win came 28 years after India had won the Cricket World Cup for the first time. The final against Sri Lanka will be remembered for the last-ball six by Dhoni to help India win. The 2011 World Cup was the last edition featuring the Master Blaster, Sachin Tendulkar, and many of his team mates dedicated this victory to him.