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PV Sindhu, Neeraj Chopra, Abhinav Bindra- India's firsts at Olympics

From the first-ever participant to the first medalist, these trailblazers have paved the way for future generations.

PV Sindhu, Neeraj Chopra, Abhinav Bindra- Indias firsts at Olympics
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PV Sindhu, Abhinav Bindra and Neeraj Chopra has bring glory to Indian sports. (File Photo)

By

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 11 July 2024 2:00 PM GMT

India’s Olympic journey predates Independence with Norman Pritchard being the solo participant at the 1900 Paris Olympic Games and even winning 2 medals - thereby becoming the first Asian to win an Olympic Medal.

India has sent a team to the Summer Olympics since 1920 and hasn’t stopped since. After gaining independence, India sent 79 athletes to the London Olympics, marking an important event in the country’s history.

With the Olympic games coming back to Paris after 124 years of Norman Pritchard’s triumph, let's take a look at ‘India’s Firsts at the Olympic Games’

First Participant - Norman Pritchard, Athletics, Paris 1900

The Calcutta-born, Norman Pritchard was the first Indian to contest in the Olympic games. Pritchard decided to enroll in the event while he was on a vacation in France. Pritchard contested in five different events- the 60m, the 100m, the 200m, the 110m hurdles, and the 200m hurdles, and was eliminated in the heats of 60m and 100m.

He won two silver medals at the games, coming second in the 200m behind the Tewksbury and won the silver medal in the 200m hurdles behind the legendary Alvin Kraenzlein of the USA.

Norman Pritchard at the 1900 Olympic Games (Photo credits: Raju Mukharjee)

First Individual Medalist Post Independence - KD Jadhav, Bronze in Wrestling, Helsinki 1952

After Pritchard won two medals at the Paris Olympics, India had won medals only in field hockey, a team sport. It was in 1952 when KD Jadhav became the first individual athlete from independent India to win a medal at the Olympics. Jadhav secured the bronze medal in the bantamweight category at the Helsinki Olympic Games

KD Jadhav receiving bronze medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics (Photo credits: X)

First Gold Medalist - Men’s Hockey Team, Amsterdam 1928

The Jaipal Singh Munda-led Indian hockey team went on to win the gold medal at the Amsterdam Olympic Games beating the Netherlands in the gold medal match, with legendary Dhyan Chand scoring 2 goals. India went on to begin a gold medal streak which continued till the 1956 Olympic games.

1928 Men's hockey team (Photo Credits: Wills book of Excellence- Hockey)

First Individual Gold Medalist - Abhinav Bindra, Shooting, Beijing 2008

In 2008. Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian individual gold medal winner at the Olympic Games. The exciting finals witnessed Bindra going neck to neck with Finland's Henri Hakkinen.

With one shot remaining both the shooters were tied with the same points with the last attempt to decide the gold medal winner. Bindra then stunned the crowd scoring 10.8 on his last shot - his highest score of the finals - to see off the challenge of Hakkinen and secure victory, taking India’s pride to the next heights.

Abhinav Bindra at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (Photo credits: Olympics.com)

First Individual Multiple Medalist - Sushil Kumar

Considered India's best wrestler, Sushil Kumar is the only Indian male athlete to win two individual medals at the Olympics, including one silver and one bronze.

In 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, Sushil Kumar lost in the second round of the 66 kg freestyle wrestling event to Andriy Stadnick of Ukraine, leaving his medal hopes hanging on the repechage rounds. But he made a fabulous comeback in the repechage round to beat Kazakhstan's Spiridonov 3:1 and win the bronze medal match to clinch India’s second medal in wrestling history of the Olympic Games.

Four years after his heroics in Beijing, Sushil then went on to win the silver medal at 2012 London Olympics, losing to Japan’s Yonemitsu in the finals- making him the first Indian to win multiple individual medals at the Olympics.

First Female Individual Multiple Medalist - P V Sindhu

After being seeded ninth in the Olympic Games, Sindhu went on a dream run beating every opponent that came along her way. After Saina's exit, Sindhu carried the Indian hope of reaching the finals- ensuring a medal for the country. Sindhu bowed out to Carolina Marin of Spain in a 3-set thriller that lasted 83 minutes.

She clinched the silver medal, creating history as India's youngest individual Olympic medalist and the first Indian woman to bag an Olympic silver medal. Sindhu then returned to the Olympic stage in Tokyo, where she went on to beat eighth seed He Bingjiao of China in the playoff to clinch the bronze medal. With this achievement, Sindhu became the first Indian woman to claim two medals at two consecutive Olympic games.

First Flag Bearer Post Independence - Talimeren Ao, London 1948

Taliman Rao was a strong figure in the history of Indian football. Not only he was a footballer but also a practicing physician, who captained the Indian football team for the first game post-independence. Ao then went on to Captain India at the 1948 London Olympics and became the flag bearer of the Indian contingent making him the first Indian flag bearer post-Independence at the Olympic games

Dr. Talimaren Ao (Photo Credits: X)

First Female Medalist - Karnam Malleshwari, Bronze in Weightlifting, Sydney 2000

The ‘Iron Lady” became the first Indian female medalist at the Olympic games when she lifted 110 kg in the snatch category and 130 kilograms in the clean and jerk, category to clinch the bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Karnam Malleswari at the Sydney Olympic Games (Photo Credits: X)

First Female Participant - Nilima Ghose, Athletics, Helsinki 1952

Nilima became the first female athlete to participate in the Olympic games when she took part in two events at the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland. Nilima ran in the first heats of 100m where she finished last and failed to qualify for the finals. She also took part in the 80m hurdles and finished fifth in the heats.

Technically, it was Nilima Ghose and Mary D'Souza who were the first Indian women to participate in the Olympics. Since Nilima ran the first heat of 100m and Mary ran the later one, the title is attributed to Nilima.

First gold medal in athletics - Neeraj Chopra, Tokyo 2020 Olympics

India's "Golden Arm," Neeraj Chopra, etched his name in history on August 7th, 2021, becoming the first Indian athlete to claim Olympic gold.

His second throw of 87.58 meters secured him victory in a star-studded javelin final that included Johannes Vetter, Julian Weber, Arshad Nadeem, and Jakub Vadlejch.

Now, all eyes turn to Paris as Chopra prepares to take center stage once again at the upcoming Olympic Games.

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