Close Calls At The Olympics, Indians Who Finished Fourth Through The Years

Indian athletes that came close to winning medals at the Olympics, but have ultimately lost out and finished fourth.

Olympic Sports
6 min read

We've had some great performances by Indian athletes at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with five medals to our name, 2 silver and 3 bronze.

Mirabai Chanu and Ravi Kumar Dahiya won silver medals in weightlifting and wrestling with PV Sindhu, Lovlina Borgohain and Indian Men's hockey team winning the bronze medal.

We've also had some heartbreaks at the Olympics such as The Indian Women's hockey team and Aditi Ashok who gave it their all and put up strong performances but ultimately finished fourth.

There have been several Indian athletes who finished in fourth-place at the Olympics throughout history.


Indian Football Team

The Indian football team, one of the best in Asia in the 1950s-1960s, is also part of the famous list of fourth place finishes at the Summer Games.

In 1956, at the Melbourne Games, where India won a gold in hockey, the football team finished fourth after losing their Bronze Medal game against Belarus.

India achieved their greatest result in a competitive tournament in Melbourne. The football tournament is also well remembered for Neville D'Souza's hat-trick against Australia (4-2) in the quarterfinals. D'Souza's hat-trick was the first scored by an Asian in Olympic history.

In the semi-finals, India lost to Yugoslavia 4-1 and had begun their campaign with a walkover from Hungary, who were known as the Golden Team in the 1950s.

Milkha Singh

The flying sikh, Milkha Singh nearly won a 400m medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, but unfortunately missed out.

Milkha Singh breezed past the heats, qualifications, quarter and semifinal levels and looked set to take home a medal.

During the final race he started off impressive and was keeping pace with the lead group and was in third place in the last lap, but an error of judgement allowed his opponent to slip past in the last corner which led Singh to lose the bronze by just 0.1 seconds and left him wondering about 'what ifs'.

"I knew what my fatal error was. After running perilously fast in lane five, I slowed down at 250m and could not cover the lost ground after that, and that cost me the race."- Milkha Singh

PT Usha

After Milkha Singh finished fourth in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, no one thought another Indian would be able to emulate his success in athletics again.

But then along came PT Usha, to finish fourth in the 400m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, where PT Usha was in a phenomenal form easily winning the heats and beating her main rivals in the semifinals.

PT Usha started off the final race well and managed to even lead the pack, until her opponents managed to edge her to the podium spots.

PT Usha later admitted she wasn't able to sustain her energy levels in the final meters of the race due to the fact she was constrained by her diet of just porrdige and pickles.

Usha said she wasn't able to get used to the American foods on offer such as baked potatoes, roast chicken etcetera and had to just ristrict herself to 'achar' and porrdige throughout the Olympics.

Indian athletes that came close to winning medals at the Olympics, but have ultimately lost out and finished fourth.
File photo of PT Usha. (Photo: Reuters)

Limba Ram 

When Limba Ram qualified for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the hopes for India winning a medal in archery were high.

But Ram admitted that during the build up to the Olympics and the final event he began to suffer with his concentration and focus and that the officials were actually ended up hurting his focus before the final event.

“I was in a deep state of meditation before the event. Archery is such a mental sport and it is vital to find inner calm. If the mind wanders even slightly, you won’t fire the arrow well. I was summoned to meet the officials even as I was meditating. They told me ‘we will carry you on our shoulders and take you to India with the medal around your neck’. I was angry and irritated that I was disturbed. I came back to my room but could not focus again.”


Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi

The tennis doubles duo are one of the most sucessfull tennis players in Indian history winning multiple Grand slams including the French Open and Rolland Garros.

In 2002 the pair had decided to split up due to poor performances, but came back together one final time for the 2004 Olympics in hope of giving India a medal.

The pair started off strong at the Olympics even managing to beat a 23-year-old Roger Federer who was at the height of his powers during that period, and his partner Yves Allegro, The pair then somewhat struggled in the semi-finals but were able to make it through into the Bronze medal match against Croatia.

The Match against Croatia lasted for four hours and went well into the night with the Indians performing strongly with all four players upping their game making absolutely no mistakes, but in the end it was the Croatians who ended up victorious bagging the bronze medal.


Abhinav Bindra 

Indian athletes that came close to winning medals at the Olympics, but have ultimately lost out and finished fourth.
File photo of Abhinav Bindra. 
(Photo: AP)

Abhinav Bindra who won the gold in shooting at the 2008 Beijing olympics failed to take home another medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Bindra came tantalizingly close to taking home a medal in his fifth and final Olympics. Bindra was tied in the third spot with Serhiy Kulish from Ukraine, both with a score of 163.8 points after 16 shots.

Despite Bindra having strong support and cheers from his Indian supporters in the stands he just wasn't able to make it count and ultimately finished fourth being edged out in the shootout between him and his opponent Kulish.


Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna

Sania Mirza came extremly close to winning a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics with her mixed doubles partner Rohan Bopanna but ultimately left empty handed.

The pair was Pitted against Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, were unable to beat the duo and lost 1-6, 6-7 in the bronze playoff.

While Mirza considers being World number 1 in tennis mixed doubles as one of her greatest achivements, losing out on the medal at the Olympics remains one her her greatest disapointments.

“Losing in the match to go into the final at the Olympics and then losing out for the medal in the semis when we played for bronze (is my biggest disappointment). Two days in a row,” said Sania Mirza in a chat with Indian tennis’ Purav Raja on his Instagram show, Chai with Raja.

Dipa Karmakar

Dipa Karmakar was the first Indian gymnast to qualify for the Olympics, while she didn't win a medal she still put up an extremly impressive performance to finish fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Karmakar received a final score of 15.066 for executing one of the most dangerous moves in gymnastics, the Produnova vault, which has only been performed sucessfuly by only 5 people, Karmakar being one of them. The move was names after Elena Produnova from Russia who first peformed it in 1999, Named after Russia’s Elena Produnova, the move has often been called the 'vault of death'.

American Gymnast Simone Biles won the event with Karmakar finishing fourth, while she may have not won a medal she won the hearts, respect and admiration of everyone watching.


Indian Women's hockey team

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics India became the only country to have both hockey teams qualify for the semi-finals and to be in medal contention.

While the men's hockey team was able to defeat Germany to secure the bronze medal after a 41 year wait, the Women's team came narrowly close to securing the Bronze medal as well ultimately losing out to Great Britian.

The Indian Women's hockey team who played their hearts out in Tokyo narrowly finished fourth in the end, while they didn't win the medal they garnered the respect, admiration and pride of all Indians for their fantastic and hard-fought perfromance at the Tokyo Olympics.


Aditi Ashok

The 23-year-old Indian golfer put on a stellar show at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics to finish fourth in the Women's golf tournament.

Aditi was in contention to win a medal throughout the tournament with her running as high as second up till the final round.

While she may not have won a medal the magnitude of her achivements will not be lost as she has gone father than any other Indian in golf at the Olympics and has raised the mark and standard of Indian golf, no doubt inspiring several others to pick up the clubs and hit the golf course.

Not many had thought Aditi would be in medal contention at the start of the Olympics, but with her impressive performances she still managed to go up against some of the best in the world, despite not playing at her best due to lack of preperation as a result of catching Covid a few months prior.

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