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India at Olympics: Hockey – A look at the history of the sport

Let's go back in history to know about India's national sport hockey and how India's hockey have shaped up in Olympics over the years.

India at Olympics: Hockey – A look at the history of the sport

Abishek Sadanandam

Updated: 2021-06-16T12:42:06+05:30

India is the most successful team in Field Hockey at Olympics, with 11 medals in total, including 8 gold medals. From 1928 to 1956, India won consecutive six gold medals, which is a record even today. The golden era of Indian hockey ended with a gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

After the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, India has not even finished once in the top 5, and from then India has seen a downslide in the sport. Let's have a look at the journey of the Indian hockey team at the Olympics over the years.

1928 Amsterdam Olympics

Hockey was part of 1908 and 1920 games but India didn't participate in either of them It was the first appearance at the Olympics in the name of British India. There were only three officials from Indian Hockey Federation went to Bombay port to see them off as nobody had any expectations on them but when they returned there were thousands of people giving them welcome. Total of 9 teams participated in this competition with India put in group A alongside Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria. The national icon Dhyan Chand, who is being talked about by people even today, was the star of India's campaign scoring 14 out of 29 goals. His hat-trick against the finalist Holland has a special place in history, getting India its first Olympic gold medal.

Indian hockey team at 1928 Olympics (Source: Wikipedia)

1932 Los Angeles Olympics

India took 42 days sea voyage to reach Los Angeles. There were only three teams in the completion and India had scored record 35 goals against both USA and Japan. India defeated Japan 11-1 in their first match but most memorable moment for the team came when the score line read 24-1 against the host USA. India won both the matches against USA and Japan which made them Olympic champion for the consecutive time.

Indian hockey at 1932 Olympic (Source: Sankalp Foundation)

1936 Berlin Olympics

Dhyan Chand was the captain of the Indian team in this Olympics. It was a 8-team and India was placed in group A alongside Hungary, United States and Japan. Against group stage opponents India scored 20 goals without conceding any goal. Then in the semi-final, India defeated France 10-0 which set a clash aginst Germany in the final. In the final, India defeated hosts Germany with a margin of 8-1. However, it was in this Olympics, Hitler took notice of Dhyan Chand's skills and offered him German citizenship.

Indian hockey team at the 1936 Olympics (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

1948 London Olympics

This was the first Olympics after 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled due to World War. This was a historic Olympics for Indian hockey because Pakistan and India were separated as independent nations which meant the team which played in the Berlin Olympics was divided into two. In the final there was a huge crowd of 25000 people in Wembley stadium at which India defeated Great Britain 4-0 in the final to win the fourth consecutive gold medal, and this happened to be the first gold medal for independent India.

Indian hockey team at 1948 Olympics (Source: Olympic Channel)

1952 Helsinki Olympics

This Olympics had 13 teams in competition playing on Knock-out basis. India got a bye in the first round and so they played against Austria in the quarter-final. Indian team smoothly sailed into the final having Netherlands waiting for them in the final. India defeated Netherland and continued the streak by winning its fifth consecutive gold medal in the Olympics. India Balbir Singh scored 9 goals out of 13 goals scored by India and Captain Digvijay Singh was honoured with the titles like 'Best sportsman of Asia' and 'Best hockey player in the world'.

1956 Melbourne Olympics

Indian hockey contingent for this Olympics had some experienced players like Balbir Singh Sr, Leslie Claudius, Randhir Singh Gentle and Ranganathan Francis who were all playing in their third Olympics. This competition had 12 teams divided into 3 groups. India ended their group stage matches with 36 goals in total which resulted in a Semi-final clash against Germany where India won with a close margin of 1-0. Then, India had its arch-rivals Pakistan as the opponent in the finals. The finals happened at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) at which India defeated Pakistan 1-0 winning the sixth gold medal on the trot.

Indian hockey at the 1956 Olympics (Source: Prasar Bharati)

1960 Rome Olympics

With having Balbir Singh Sr retired form hockey, Leslie Claudius in his fourth Olympics captained the side in this Olympics. India was put alongside Denmark, Netherlands and New Zealand in the group stages which they won comfortably and sailed to the knockouts. India had a very close match against Great Britain in the semi-final with a goal from Udham Singh making the difference. India again had Pakistan as their opponent in the final but this time they had 8 of their 11 players who had already played against India in 1956 Olympics final. In the final, India suffered a shocking defeat 0-1 to Pakistan in the final which ended their gold medal streak.

India at the 1960 Olympics (Source: Olympic Channel)

1964 Tokyo Olympics

With memories of 1960 Olympics loss to Pakistan and 1962 Asia cup loss to Pakistan, India was very determined to win a gold medal here. Charanjit Singh was the captain of the side taking the team easily through to the finals. India again squared up against Pakistan which was regarded to be rough finals where players from both sides were playing so roughly that umpires had to intervene. In the final, India won its seventh gold medal by defeating Pakistan thanks to Mohinder Lal's penalty conversion which was the only goal scored in the final.

Indian hockey team at the 1964 Olympics (Source: Olympic Channel)

1968 Mexico Olympics

Hockey's popularity was on the rise in both Europe and Asia. India lost to New Zealand in the group stage match which also happened to be India's first defeat in group stages at the Olympics. For first time in the eight Olympics, India did not reach the finals in this Olympics when they lost to Australia in the semi-finals. Nevertheless, India went on to win a bronze medal by defeating West Germany 2-1 in the third-place play-off.

1972 Munich Olympics

Only four members of the 1968 Olympics were part of this team. Harmek Singh was the captain of the side. Also Vece Paes, father of Leander Paes was part of this team. India finished group stages unbeaten which comprised of 7 teams. India was about to face Pakistan in the semi-final when tragedy stuck Olympics which halted the game for two days when Isreali team was attacked. Next day, India lost to Pakistan in the semi-final and it is believed that the tragedy affected India's rhythm. In the 3rd place play-off, they defeated Holland 2-1 to win a bronze medal.

1976 Montreal Olympics

The playing surface in Field hockey saw a change when astroturf was used as a pitch for the first time at the games. With three victories and two losses in group stages, India was tied with Australia which resulted in play-off match between them to decide second placed team in the group. Australia defeated India in the play-off making it to the semi-finals. First time in 58 years, India was out of the medal contention and they finished at the 7th position.

1980 Moscow Olympics

After the bronze medal finish in 1968 and 1972 and more shocking 1976 Olympics, India came back strongly in this Olympics. It was only 6-team competition in this Olympics after nine teams pulled out. India comfortably sailed through to the finals and setup a clash against Spain in the final. India defeated Spain 4-3 in the finals clinching their eighth gold medal at Olympics. Unfortunately this happened to be India's last Olympics medal in Field Hockey. Indian women's team made their debut at the Olympics, finishing 4th.

Indian hockey team at the 1980 Olympics (Source: The Hindu)

1984 Los Angeles Olympics

The Olympic competition had 12 nations participating in it. India was put in group A alongside Australia, West Germany, Spain, Malaysia and United States. India lost only to Australia in the group matches and the must win game against West Germany ended in a draw which put India out of semi-final berth. In classification matches, India went on to win two more matches finishing at 5th position.

1988 Seoul Olympics

On the back of poor performances in 1986 world cup and other tournaments, Indian team travelled to 1988 Olympics with lot of problems regarding selection, captaincy etc. Pargat Singh was named as captain of the side which didn't go well with the seniors as it was only his debut Olympics. The problems off-field was seen clearly with India losing to Russia 0-1 and draw against Germany 1-1 in the next match. Thus, India was placed in 5-8 classification matches, finishing sixth after losing to Pakistan.

1992 Barcelona Olympics

It was a 12-team competition at the games. India was put alongside Argentina, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain and Australia. India managed to win only two matches which were against Argentina and Egypt. Thus, India was again put in 5-8 classification matches where they ended up finishing seventh.

1996 Atlanta Olympics

India was put alongside Spain, Germany, Pakistan, Argentina and United States. India was able to win only two matches which were against Spain and United States. For the fourth consecutive Olympics, India was in 5-8 classification matches where they finished 8th after losing both the matches.

2000 Sydney Olympics

India was put alongside Australia, South Korea, Argentina, Poland and Spain in group B. India managed two wins and two draws but still ended up finishing 3rd in the group which again put them into 5-8 classification matches. In classification matches, they lost to Great Britain but won against Argentina putting them in 7th position.

2004 Athens Olympics

At 35, Dhanraj Pillay played in his record fourth Olympics. India was put alongside Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. India won only 1 out of 5 league matches managing to finish 4th in the group. India managed to win against Korea in the 5-8 classification match and ended up at 7th position.

Indian hockey team at the 2004 Olympics (Source: Sportskeeda)

2008 Beijing Olympics

For the first time in 88 years, India failed to qualify for the Olympics when they got defeated by Great Britain in the final of the World hockey Olympic qualifying tournament held at Santiago, Chile. India's record of 18 appearances at Olympics from 1928 Amsterdam Olympics to 2004 Athens Olympics was broken.

2012 London Olympics

India was put in group B alongside Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, South Korea, New Zealand and India. India finished last in the group after not winning a single game in the competition. In the 11-12 classification games, India lost to South Africa 2-3 resulting in India's worst finish at Olympics.

2016 Rio Olympics


This Olympics had a new format where top four teams from each group qualify to play against each other in the knock-outs. India was put alongside Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Ireland and Canada. India won only two of its matches against Ireland and Argentina finishing 4th in their group. By finishing 4th, India had a quarter-final clash against Belgium in which India lost 1-3. India finished 8th in the overall tournament.

Indian women hockey team at the 2016 Olympics (Source: India)


Indian women qualified for the second time to play in Olympics, last time being in 1980. Indian women's team were put alongside Great Britain, United States, Australia, Argentina and Japan. India was not able to win a single match, ended up finishing last in the group and in the tournament too.

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