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India at Olympics: Athletics – Top 5 Indian athletes of all time

We discuss the five greatest Indian athletes of all time

India at Olympics: Athletics – Top 5 Indian athletes of all time
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Milkha Singh is among the greatest Indian athletes of all time [Source: The Statesman]

By

Anjishnu Roy

Updated: 2021-06-09T09:49:34+05:30

Despite being largely overlooked, the world of athletics has blessed India with several sporting icons over the years. Some of them, including Milkha Singh and PT Usha, have become a household name in the country.

In this piece, we'll celebrate the achievements of the five greatest Indian athletes of all time.

5. Gurbachan Singh Randhawa

Gurbachan Singh Randhawa was the first Indian athlete to win the Arjuna Award [Source: Scroll]

Gurbachan Singh Randhawa took part in the 1960 Olympics in Rome as well as the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo in 110m Hurdles, High Jump, and Decathlon. He finished fifth in the Men's 110m Hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Gurbachan Singh Randhawa also won a gold medal at the 1962 Asian Games in Decathlon and was the first athlete in India to be felicitated with the Arjuna Award in 1961.

4. Anju Bobby George


Anju Bobby George is the first and only Indian athlete to win a World Championships' Medal [The Week]

Anju Bobby George is the first and only Indian athlete to win a World Championships Medal. The former track athlete achieved this feat by winning the bronze medal in Long Jump at the World Athletics Championships in Paris in 2003.

She also ended up winning gold at the IAAF World Athletics Final in 2005 and finished fifth in Long Jump at the 2004 Athens Olympics with her personal best jump of 6.83m. Anju Bobby George also received the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award for Best Athlete in India.

3. PT Usha


PT Usha is popularly known as the Queen of Indian Track and Field [Source: Scroll]

The Queen of Indian Track and Field, PT Usha is a legendary Indian athlete. The highest point in her career arrived at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where she missed a podium finish in 400m Hurdles by 1/100th of a second. PT Usha had her rhythm interrupted by a competitor's false start and couldn't win bronze at the Games.

However, success followed at various prestigious competitions. She won five gold medals and one bronze at the 1985 Jakarta Asian Championships and also set an Asian Record in the 400m race. She also scripted the record for most gold medals in the history of the Championships.

2. Milkha Singh


Milkha Singh is probably the most celebrated Indian athlete of all time [Source: Unknown]

Perhaps the most famous athlete in Indian history, Milkha Singh's story is unknown to no Indian. Much of that is because of his larger-than-life story which was also inspired the 2013 biographical film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag where Farhan Akhtar portrayed the legendary runner.

The Flying Sikh, a title of honour given by Pakistani General Ayub Khan in 1960, is the only athlete to win Gold in 400m at the Asian Games as well as the Commonwealth Games. He also achieved gold at the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games.

Milkha Singh's fourth-place finish at the Rome Olympics in 1960 is etched into Indian sporting folklore. He had led the race up until the halfway mark but made an erroneous judgment in trying to slow down and assess his rivals and ended up finishing fourth. What's remarkable is that despite his error, Milkha Singh had set a new Olympic record. However, he was the fourth person to do so in the same race.

1. Norman Pritchard


Norman Pritchard was Indias first Olympic representative and medalist [Source: BBC]

The first to represent India at the Olympics? Check. The first to win a medal for India at the Olympics? Check.

Despite being a British citizen born in Calcutta during the British rule in India, Norman Pritchard represented India at the 1900 Olympics held in Paris. He also became the first Asian-born to win an Olympic medal when he won two silver medals in the 200m Hurdles and 200m Dash.

Pritchard was also an accomplished footballer and served as the joint honorary secretary at Indian Football Association (IFA) between 1900 and 1905.

Later in his life, Norman Pritchard pursued a successful acting career under the name Norman Trevor and went on to act in 26 plays and 27 silent movies.

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