The entire nation is awaiting to celebrate its 72nd year of Independence in a few days time. India made their debut at the Olympic event back in 1928, participating as a colonial nation under British rule.
Major stalwarts such as Jaipal Singh Munda, Lal Shah Bokahri, Dhyan Chand in the first 3 tournaments, India emerged as a strong and a dominant force in the sport of Hockey.
Conceding a mere total of just 3 goals & scoring more than 100 goals in from 1928-1936, India was successful to clinch the top podium finish thrice consecutively. Defeating the host nation- Netherlands (1928) & Germany (1936) in the finals by a dominating margin of 3-0 & 8-1, India had already established as one of the pioneers of the game in the pre-independence era.
However, it was essential to maintain the track record post 1947 when it attained independence from the British Raj. The record books reflected the Gold Medal in the name of ‘British India’ in the 1928,1932 & 1936 Games.
When the games returned back in 1948, hosted by Great Britain owing to the tense World War between, it was a first instance when India & Pakistan- two independent nations made their debut. Lack of proper funds, partition & less than a year after becoming a free nation, there were multiple issues acting as a roadblock for the national Hockey players to travel abroad & perform.
A total of 13 nations had participated in the 1948 Games categorised into 3 groups (Group A,B,C) comprising of 4,4 & 5 nations respectively. Indian & Pakistan teams were separated owing to the partition & as a result, the pressure of building a new core & competitive team to face the tough opponents was a huge challenge lying ahead of both nations.
India were drawn in Group A alongside Argentina, Austria & Spain whereas the hosts- Great Britain were placed with Switzerland, Afghanistan & USA in Group B. The last Group comprised of the powerhouse nations- Netherlands, Belgium, France & new entrant after separation from British India-Pakistan. A ruthless Pakistan managed to enter the top 4 with ease scoring 20 goals from their 4 group matches, beating Great Britain’s & India’s total count of 19 coming off 3 matches though.
However, the undefeated run of the Men in Green was put to a sudden halt by the British in the semi-final where the latter disallowed the ball from crossing the net. India, on the other hand faced a first-time threat by the Dutchmen in the competition. But a victory of close margin by 2-1 ensured a maiden final berth for Independent India in the global competition.
Led by Kishan Lal, Indian Hockey team displayed a ruthless performance with no mercy over hosts, Great Britiain in the final showdown. The goal scorers, being Balbir Singh (2), Patrick Jansen (1) & Tarlochan Singh (1) laid the foundation of India’s 1st ever Gold medal for the independent nation. It was exactly 3 days before the 1st anniversary of Independence Day ie August 12,1948 that the entire nation celebrated in front of a packed Wembley Stadium in London, the victory over the Britishers and a victory which made itself to the Golden pages of Indian Hockey & Indian sports fraternity.
Later, Balbir Singh was elected as the Vice- captain (1952) & captain (1956) of the Indian national team at the Helsinki & Melbourne Olympics when India were successful in defending their crown, thereby creating a unique record of establishing a hat-trick of Gold medals in Hockey at Olympic Games. Thereafter, India secured a Gold in the 1964 (Toyo) & 1980 (Moscow) Games to help the tally of the Gold medals to reach 8- the most by any nation in the history of the Summer Olympics.
India begins its preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games scheduled from July 20- August 9 with the Test event starting from August 17,2019 in Tokyo. Both the Men’s & Women’s captain- Harmanpreet Singh & Rani Rampal look to re-define & re-fresh the rich glory of Indian Hockey. The competition is expected to play a huge role to assess the playing conditions and also to take on some of the big guns and favourites for the next year’s Olympics.