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A look at India's first-ever participation in every sports in the Olympics

A list of 10 popular sports and the first time India took part in each of them at the Olympics

Norman Pritchard

Norman Pritchard - India's first athlete at the Olympics


C.C. Chengappa

Updated: 15 Jun 2021 9:52 AM GMT

India has managed to take part at least once in almost every sport that the Modern Olympics has to offer. This feat has reaped a few rewards as well over time with medals being won across the 20th and 21st century in different editions of the Olympics. Here is a list of the first time India took part in 10 of the most popular and successful sports in the country's history.


Hockey has been the most successful sport for India by far. The first time the country took part in the games was in 1928 in which they also won Gold. They continued their dominance for over 6 decades in the tournament winning 8 gold medals, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals. The Hockey team is regarded as Indian despite having played under British India and their success and medals are attributed to Indian players and the country officially.


India's most successful individual sport, the first shooting team was sent in 1952. Souren Choudhary and Harihar Banerjee represented India at that time. Since then the country has amassed 1 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze medals in its most successful individual sport ever. Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, and Vijay Kumar are a few notable names who have taken part regularly in Olympics.


The first Indians to take part in wrestling were Randhir Shinde and Kumar Navale back in 1920. Independent India's first-ever medal was in wrestling as well with KD Jadhav winning a bronze back in 1952. Sushil Kumar repeated the feat in 2008 and 2012 by winning a bronze and silver in each of the editions respectively. Wrestling is one of India's oldest sports in which they have sent competitors in and is also the second behind shooting in successful individual sports with one silver and 4 bronze medals being won.

Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt and Sakshi Malik (Source: Indian olympic Association)


India took part the first time Badminton was introduced in the Olympics back in 1992. The team comprised Madumita Bhist, Deepankar Bhattacharya, and Vimal Kumar. They have fielded players and participated in every edition since then with relative success. Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu are the two medalists who have brought laurels to the country with bronze and silver respectively.


India took part for the first time in 1972 when Chander Narayan lost out in the second round of his category. Since then the country has won two bronze medals, namely by Mary Kom and Vijender Singh. Other notable participants include Jitender Singh, Akhil Kumar, Shiva Thapa.

6) Athletics

India has always managed to field athletes in almost every edition of the games since 1900. The first time the country took part in the games was in 1900 with Norman Pritchard representing India in the Games. He won two silver medals for the country and in doing so, made India the first Asian country to win an individual Olympic medal.

7) Weightlifting

Ironically, the first person who represented India in the Olympics in weightlifting was U Zaw Weik, a Burmese native. The first ethnic Indian was Dandamuji Rajagopal(actor and Asian Games Gold medalist) in 1948. India's maiden medal however came much later when Karnam Malleshwari won a bronze in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics.


Another popular Indian sport is Tennis. Notable players like Vijay Amritraj, Mahesh Bhupati, Leander Paes and Sani Mirza have all taken part in Singles and Doubles events over the years. The first Indians to take part in Tennis were when the duo of Zeeshan Ali and Vijay Amritraj in 1988. The sole Indian medal winner was Leander Paes in the singles event in 1998.

Leander Paes

9) Football

Football is a popular sport but success has been few and far between. The Indian football team was first sent to the Olympics in 1948 at a time when they were a dominant force in Asia. They reached the semi-finals in 1956 and lost out on the bronze medal narrowly.


The country has never won a medal despite having multiple World Champions over the past decade or so. They first took part in 1988 at the Seoul games where Limba Ram represented India and missed out on a medal. Since then they have fielded competitors regularly and are vying for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics as well.

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