‘Gold’ is Fictional, But When Did India 1st Win an Olympic Medal?
“Our country has won three golds but under the name of British,” Akshay Kumar is heard saying in the teaser of his upcoming film ‘Gold’, scheduled to release on 15 August. The minute-long clip shows a ‘mad’ hockey coach, played by Kumar, vying for India’s first Olympic medal as an independent nation.
The film’s makers have clarified that it’s a fictional movie, set against a real backdrop between 1933-48. But what actually happened? Who were the three medallists in British-India? When did India win their first Olympic medal as a free nation? And who was the first individual Olympic medallist? Here’s a brief throwback.
Olympic Medals Before Independence
It was in the second edition of the modern Games in 1900 that India first participated in the Olympics. Indian-born Norman Pritchard of British ethnicity had bagged two silver medals – 200m and 200m hurdles – at the Paris Games. With those wins, he also became the first Asian-born athlete to win an Olympic medal.
The next Olympic medal for India came in the 1928 Games when the men’s field hockey team clinched the gold. That was the start of a winning spree for the golden team that won 11 medals in 12 editions of the Olympic Games between 1920 and 1980. After 1928, the hockey team consecutively won golds in the next five Games.
India first participated in the Olympics as a free country in the 1948 Games. A total of 79 male sportspersons participated across 10 sports including Boxing, Cycling, Wrestling, Hockey, Football, Swimming, Water Polo, Athletics and Weightlifting. However, India took home just one medal from those Games – a gold in hockey.
Interestingly, Great Britain had not participated in the Olympics between 1928 and 1936, never giving India a chance to defeat them. But come 1948, just a year after India got freedom, the Kishan Lal-led team defeated Great Britain 4-0 in the final to lift their fourth Olympic gold. Since, the Indian men’s hockey team has won seven more medals at the Olympics, including four golds (1952, 1956, 1964, 1980), one silver (1960) and two bronze (1968, 1972).
In fact, since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) lists Pritchard as Indian, while the International Association of Athletics Federations has labelled him British – there is uncertainty over who really is India’s first individual Olympic medallist.