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Revisiting the Indian hockey team's eight gold medals at Olympics

Indian hockey team for 1928 Summer Olympics
Indian hockey team for 1928 Summer Olympics

The men's Indian hockey team are currently ranked fourth in the world and have enjoyed considerable success in the past year. With form by their side, the men in blue look to be turning the clock to take Indian hockey back to its golden era.

The men's hockey team won six straight golds at the Olympics from 1928 to 1956 and followed it up with two more gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and Moscow Olympics of 1980.

Also read: 3 reasons why Indian men's hockey team is poised to win a medal at Tokyo Olympics

Here is a throwback to the time when Indian hockey was revered and the team enjoyed a period of domination at the Olympics.

Gold at Amsterdam Olympics, 1928

India's first hockey gold came at the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928. This was the Olympics which saw the rise of hockey legend Dhyan Chand.

Team India was placed in Division A along side Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria. India dominated the division with a flawless display of hockey both in attack and defense.

Austria were thrashed 6-0, Belgium were embarrased 9-0, Denmark were vanquished 5-0, and Switzerland were routed 6-0. India thus topped Division A, winning all its matches and scoring the maximum number of goals (26) without conceding even once!

The Netherlands had topped Division B, winning its matches against France and Germany while drawing its match against Spain. India met The Netherlands in the gold medal match. India trounced their European rivals 3-0 in the final, thanks to a stunning hat-trick by Dhyan Chand. The victory ensured the country's first gold in hockey at the Olympics.

Dhyan Chand finished as the top goal scorer with 14 goals.

Gold at Los Angeles Olympics, 1932

The start of the Los Angeles Olympics was not as auspicious for India. Reports of groupism and infighting amongst the Indians and the Anglo-Indians marred the start of the event. The primary reason behind the infighting was due to Lal Shah Bokhari being named captain ahead of Eric Pinniger.

This Olympics saw only three nations participate in the field hockey event. The USA and Japan were the two other competing teams.

Once India took the field, all the differences were forgotten as the team thrashed Japan and the USA on its way to second Olympic glory.

Japan were hammered 11-1 with Dhayn Chand scoring four goals. The match against the USA was even more lopsided as India scored a mind-numbing 24 goals while conceding just once. Dhayn Chand doubled his tally to eight goals in this match.

Gold at Berlin Olympics, 1936

India completed a hat-trick of gold medals when the team clinched the top honor at Berlin Olympics 1936.

Dhyan Chand was made the captain of the team for this edition. The hockey wizard had announced that he would retire after the games. But the looming farewell of India's superstar did not dampen the spirits as India put up another fabulous show of hockey.

India were dominant once more in the group stages, netting 30 goals. In the semifinal India faced France. The French were hammered 10-0 as India booked a place in the final against host Germany. In the final, Germany conceded eight goals and could reply with only one. The hockey wizard had scored one more hat-trick in an Olympic final as India completed their own hat-trick of gold medals at the Olympics.

Gold at London Olympics, 1948

The Olympics had returned following the cancelation of the 1940 and 1944 editions due to the second World War. This edition saw the rise of new players and one player who caught everyone's attention was Balbir Singh Sr.

Balbir Singh Sr. starred as India crushed Argentina and Austria 9-1 and 8-0 respectively. In the quarterfinal India beat Spain 2-0. The semifinal was between India and the Netherlands. The Indians overcame the Dutch by a scoreline of 2-1 as they prepared for a showdown against their erstwhile rulers.

In the final, Balbir Singh Sr. scored 2 goals and there was a goal each from Patrick Jansen and Tarlochan Singh. Great Britain failed to reply to India's four goals as the final ended 4-0 in India's favor.

This was Independent India's first hockey gold at the Olympics.

Gold at Helsenki Olympics, 1952

Four years after the historic win against Great Britain, Balbir Singh Sr. produced another miraculous show.

There were 13 teams in the fray this time around. India, Pakistan and Great Britain received a straight qualification in the quarterfinals courtesy of a bye.

In the quarterfinals India beat Austria 4-0. The semifinal was a repeat of the previous edition's final as India took on Great Britain. Balbir Singh Sr. scored a hat-tick and Great Britain managed only one goal in reply. India were on their way to the final.

In the final, India faced The Netherlands. Balbir Singh Sr. was unstoppable as he netted 5 goals in India's 6-1 rout of the Dutch hockey team. The other Indian goal was scored by Kunwar Digvijai Singh ‘Babu’.

Balbir Singh Jr. and 'Babu' were incredibly good in that edition.

Also Read: Tokyo Olympics 2020: Indian Men's Hockey Team Opponents

Gold at Melbourne Olympics, 1956

India completed another hat-trick of consecutive gold at the Olympics when they clinched gold at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. This was Balbir Singh Sr.'s third Olympic appearance.

Twelve teams were split into three groups of four each. India, Great Britain, Pakistan and Germany advanced into the semifinals.

India had flourished in the group stages as they won 6-0 over Singapore, hammerd Afghanistan 14-0, and destroyed USA 16-0.

But the semi-final fixture against Germany proved to be a tougher challenge as India managed to find the back of the net only once. The semi-final win ensured a showdown against arch-rival Pakistan.

India repeated the scoreline from the semifinal against Pakistan to clinch the yellow metal. And just like its successful run at the 1928 Olympics, India had not conceded a single goal throughout the tournament.

Gold at Tokyo Olympics 1964

Pakistan avenged their loss in the 1956 Olympic final as they clinched their first gold in field hockey at the 1960 Olympics. But India bounce back in Tokyo four years later.

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Fifteen teams had particpated in the event. Group A was comprised of 7 teams and Group B, which had India, was made of the other 8 teams.

India defeated Belgium 2-0, before drawing 1-1 against East Germany and Spain. The team bounced back to winning ways by defeating Malaysia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Canada and Hong Kong. The 5-match winning run saw India qualify for the semifinals.

In the semifinals, India locked horns with Australia. India emerged victorious in the semifinals and the gold medal match for the third consecutive time was against arch-rivals Pakistan.

In the final. Mohinder Lal converted a penalty stroke to score the only goal of the match as India clinched their seventh Olympic gold.

Gold at Moscow Olympics 1980

There was a period of considerable lull in Indian hockey as three Olympic editions passed by with the country unable to clinch gold. In that phase, India had to settle for two bronze medals at the Mexico Olympics 1968 and Munich Olympics 1972. The Montreal Olympics of 1976 was a horror show as India finished a distant seventh.

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But for the Moscow Olympics of 1980, India fielded a relatively young squad. There were just six teams this time around.

India kickstarted the campaign with resounding wins over Tanzania and Cuba. The team finished with identical scorelines of 2-2 against Poland and Spain but managed to ensure their passage into the semifinals.

In the semifinals, India produced an all-round show and defeated Russia 4-2. The final against Spain was a thrilling affair. But in the end, India eked out a 4-3 win to clinch their eighth and final Olympic gold medal to date.

Also read: Why do the Indian Hockey teams have only one goalkeeper for Tokyo Olympics 2020?

Will India win another gold in hockey at the Tokyo Olympics next month?

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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