India is the most successful country ever in the Olympics when it comes to Field Hockey. Importantly, Hockey is the National Sport of India. From 1928 to 1956, India dominated Field Hockey at the Olympics and won an astonishing six straight gold medals while remaining unbeaten in the competition. The men's Hockey team conquered everything and has gifted the Hockey world its many superstars like Dhyan Chand, Balbir Singh, and more.
To date, India has won 11 Olympic medals in Hockey - 8 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze. The last of these medals came at the 1980 Moscow Games where India beat Spain 4-3 in the finals to clinch the Gold medal.
Golden Years of Indian Hockey at the Olympics
1928 Amsterdam Olympics
In its first appearance at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, India began with a 6-0 win against Austria, with credits to the hattrick by Dhyan Chand. In the finals, India was to play against the host, Holland and Dhyan Chand showed his magical colors even then. His hat-trick helped India win the game 3-0 and consequently its first Olympic Gold medal. This victory was just the beginning for the Indian Hockey team.
1932 Los Angeles Olympics
The winning streak continued at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics where the team came together to defeat hosts, USA, 24-1 with Roop Singh scoring 10 and his brother Dhyan Chand scoring 8 goals. In the finals, the team beat Japan 11-1 to clinch their second Olympic gold.
1936 Berlin Olympics
India went on to win their third straight title at the 1936 Berlin Olympics under the captaincy of Dhyan Chand. The team stormed into the finals to face the hosts, Germany. The match was won by India 8-1, and it was the only goal conceded by India in the whole competition.
1948 London Olympics
After the cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 Olympics due to World War II, the Indian team's journey was not an easy one at the 1948 Olympics. The team won all the group matches to move into the finals against Great Britain, who were the gold medallists of the 1908 and 1920 Olympics. Eventually, India won the match 4-0 and this was a prolific victory for India as it has just gained independence from Britain a year ago.
1952 Helsinki Olympics
India continued to script records by winning its fifth Olympic Gold medal. The team won against Austria 4-0 in the quarterfinals, Great Britain 3-1 in the semi-finals, and thrashed the Netherlands by a score of 6-1 in the finals.
Notably, Balbir Singh fired 13 out of the total goals in the competition while captain, Digvijay Singh earned the title of 'Best Player in the World'.
1956 Melbourne Olympics
The team witnessed an easy run with emphatic victories over Afghanistan, the USA, and Singapore. The final was the introduction to the biggest rivalry in field hockey between India and Pakistan. Eventually, a 1-0 victory over Pakistan secured India's sixth Olympic Gold.
Last years of Domination
1960 Rome Olympics
Despite an initial good game at the start of the tournament, the dominant position turned upside down for India in the finals against Pakistan. India suffered a shocking defeat of 0-1 which ended the winning streak of six successive Olympic Hockey gold medals.
1964 Tokyo Olympics
India returned strongly at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by winning 5 out of its 7 matches in the group stage. Eventually, a confident 3-1 win against Australia seamed the path to the finals against arch-rival, Pakistan. Mohinder Lal's penalty conversion which was the only goal scored in the match which helped India clinch its seventh Olympic gold medal.
1968 Mexico Olympics
India started with a loss against New Zealand. However, they won all of the remaining six matches. Further, the team suffered a huge blow as for the first time ever as they were defeated in the semi-finals against Australia. India proceeded to play the bronze medal match and beat Germany 3-1 to settle for a bronze.
1972 Munich Olympics
India's second bronze medal was earned at this edition of the Olympics where they started strong but were defeated by their rival, Pakistan in the semi-finals. However, India managed a 2-1 victory over Holland in the third-place playoff.
1976 Montreal Olympics
For the very first time, India struggled to maintain its dominance and returned without earning any Olympic medal. It was in this edition that the astroturf Hockey pitch was introduced, and the team found it difficult to this new change.
1980 Moscow Olympics
Jolted by a bump on the road, India came back stronger at the 1980 Summer Olympics. The team made a stunning recovery by defeating Spain in the finals with a score of 4-3. Notably, this was a record 8th gold medal earned by the team which also, unfortunately, happens to be their last at the Olympics.
Source: The Clandestine
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India's performance declined after the 1980 Olympics and since then, it has not won any Olympic medal. Moreover, for the first time after 1980, India reached the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, both of India's men and women's Hockey teams have qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and it would interesting to see if India could change the declining pattern in its performance.