While India continues to search for that elusive Olympic medal in athletics post-independence, there have been several near misses over the years. Some of these performances, however, have become a part of Indian sporting folklore and they only inspire upcoming athletes to reach greater heights.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the best performances by Indian athletes in Olympics history:
5. Gurbachan Singh Randhawa – 5th in Men's 110m Hurdles (1964)
Former Indian athlete Gurbachan Singh Randhawa participated in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics in 110m Hurdles, High Jump, and Decathlon. With a timing of 14.07 seconds, he ended up finishing fifth in Men's 110m Hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.
He had also won a gold medal at the 1962 Asian Games in Decathlon.
4. Anju Bobby George – 5th in Women's Long Jump (2004)
Anju Bobby George is a legendary Indian athlete who made history by winning the bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics in Paris, jumping 6.70m. She further went on to win the gold medal at the IAAF World Athletics Final in 2005.
At the Athens Olympics in 2004, Anju Bobby George recorded her personal best of 6.83m in Long Jump but unfortunately, that only got her the fifth position in the Games.
3. PT Usha – 4th in Women's 400m Hurdles (1984)
PT Usha is a household name in the field of Indian athletics. PT Usha's greatest moment arrived at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She clocked 56.81 seconds in the heat and 55.54 seconds in the semi-final of the Olympics. This helped her set a new Commonwealth Record on her way to the final of the competition.
In the final, however, PT Usha had her rhythm interrupted after one of her competitors' false start. She got off the blocks a bit slower at the restart and finished fourth with a timing of 55.42 seconds. PT Usha lost the bronze medal by 1/100th of a second!
2. Milkha Singh – 4th in Men's 400m (1960)
Imagine being the first and only Indian to break an Olympic track record but still not end up with a medal. That is exactly what happened to the legendary Milkha Singh at the 1960 Rome Olympics where he finished fourth in the Men's 400m Final.
He was the favourite to win the medal in the final because of his blistering form. He was leading the race up until the 200-250m mark but ended up making an error by slowing down. Singh believed that he wouldn't be able to sustain his pace and looked around at his fellow competitors only to see Otis Davis, Carl Kaufmann, and Malcom Spence pass him, requiring a photo-finish result.
All the top four athletes registered Olympic records in that race, but unfortunately, Milkha Singh was the fourth man to do so in the same race.
1. Norman Pritchard – 2nd in Men's 200m and Men's 200m Hurdles (1900)
When India was still under British rule, Norman Pritchard was born to British parents George and Helen Pritchard in Calcutta. He became the first athlete to represent India at the Olympic Games in 1900 in Paris and was also the first to represent an Asian country.
Pritchard won the silver medals in both Men's 200m as well as 200m Hurdles. He had also reached the final of 110m Hurdles but did not finish.
Norman Pritchard served as the Secretary of the Indian Football Association between 1900 and 1902 before permanently moving to Britain in 1905 to pursue an acting career. He later moved to the United States to work in Hollywood.