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25 unknown facts about India at the Olympics

Here, we look at some unknown facts about Indian Olympics which might blow your mind.

25 unknown facts about India at the Olympics

Abhijit Nair

Updated: 21 March 2021 12:42 PM GMT

India has been a regular at the Olympics ever since the country's first contingent was sent to the 1920 Antwerp Games, thanks to the efforts of noted industrialist Sir Dorabji Tata.

Yes, India is also said to have participated in 1900 Games in the form of sprinter Norman Pritchard before taking a hiatus from the Games for a good 20 years – but who Pritchard represented, India or Great Britain still remains debatable. Here, we look at some such facts about Indian Olympics which might blow your mind:

Maharaja at the Olympics

Maharaja Karni Singh (Source: Pinterest)

The Maharaja or King of the state of Bikaner in Rajasthan, Maharaja Karni Singh was one of India's best shooter during his time. He was the first person to represent India at 5 Olympics – 1960 Rome, 1964 Tokyo, 1968 Mexico, 1972 Munich and 1980 Moscow Olympics. India's best shooting range, Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range in New Delhiis, aptly, named after him.

When was the Indian National Anthem played for the first time in the Olympics?

Though India won its first medal at the Olympics in the year 1928 Amsterdam Games – a gold medal in hockey and extended its dominance in hockey at the Olympics in the coming years, it was not until the year 1948 that the Indian National Anthem was played at the Olympics. This was because of the fact that India was a British colony before that and fittingly it was the hockey team's triumph at London in 1948 which led to the Indian Anthem being played at the Games for the first time.

Demonstrating Kabaddi to Adolf Hitler?

India demonstrated the sport of Kabaddi to the world for the first time during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It is said that when the Indians who were showcasing the game to the world left Adolf Hitler, who was amongst the crowd, in awe. Though Kabaddi was never recognised as a medal sport at the Olympics, the Indians then certainly managed to impress the world with their skills.

Dhyan Chand invited to join the German Army

Dhyan Chand (Source: The Hindu)

The Indian hockey legend and one of the greatest players to have graced the game of field hockey was given an invitation to join the German Army by Adolf Hitler. The story goes that Hitler was so impressed with Dhyan Chand's skills with a stick in his hands during the 1936 Berlin Games that the German leader had made up his mind to grant German citizenship to the Indian and induct him as a Colonel in the German Army.

Great Britain withdraws its hockey team

It is said that Great Britain withdrew their field hockey team from the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics on the fears of losing to their colony, India, in the game at the world stage. The decision proved to be a well-thought-out one as India went on to win the gold medal – their first-ever at the Olympics, without losing a single match during the tournament.

Conceded a goal while signing autographs?

Richard Allen, the Indian hockey goalkeeper during the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics conceded a goal during the Los Angeles Games against USA in 1932 while signing autographs for his fans. Yes, you read that right. But, it did not really matter in the end as India eventually won the match 24-1. Allen also holds the record of conceding the least number of goals at the Olympics – just 2 in 10 matches spread across three different editions.

An actor turned IOC member

Jankidas Mehra

Jankidas Mehra, a well-known actor in Hindi Cinema, served as a member of the International Olympic Committee during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He was also a brilliant cyclist and founded the Cycling Federation of India along with Sohrab Bhoot.

The first Olympian to be honoured with a postage stamp

The hockey wizard, Dhyan Chand was the first-ever Indian Olympian to be honoured by the Indian government by releasing a postage stamp on his name. This was done to commemorate his first death anniversary in December 1980.

India's first individual Olympic medal

Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav won India's first individual medal at the Olympics. A wrestler from the state of Maharashtra, Jadhav brought home the bronze medal from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. This was also the first time India won a medal in a sport other than hockey at the Olympics.

The first Indian woman at the Olympics

Nilima Ghose was the first-ever woman to represent India at the Olympics. She achieved this feat during 1952 Helsinki Games where she participated in the 100m sprint and 80m hurdles. The Indian contingent for the 1952 Games had another woman along with Ghose, Mary D'Souza. But, since Ghose participated in the first heat of 100m and Mary in the 9 heat, it technically made Ghose the first Indian woman at the Olympics.

The first Indian woman flag-bearer at the Olympics

Shiny Wilson (Source: The Hindu)

Shiny Abraham Wilson became the first-ever woman flag-bearer from India at the Olympics during the 1996 Atlanta Games. A track athlete from the state of Kerala, she represented India in four Olympics – 1984 Los Angeles, 1986 Seoul, 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta. She even served as the captain of the Indian contingent in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

When India played basketball at the Olympics

Yes, India did play basketball at the Olympics. This happened during the 1980 Moscow Games as many countries withdrew from the Games due to the US led boycott of the Olympics. The Indian team led by Paramjit Singh lost all their league matches to end at the bottom of Group A. This was India's last appearance in basketball at the Olympics.

Six consecutive Olympic gold medals for India

The Indian hockey team was one of the best sports team in the world back in the mid- 1900s. Exploiting this, India registered a total of six consecutive Olympic gold medals in hockey starting from the 1928 Amsterdam Games to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Most Goals in an Olympic final

Former Indian hockey star, Balbir Singh, holds the record for most goals scored in an Olympic final. Singh achieved this feat when he struck five goals against Netherlands during the final of 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

First Indian woman to win an Olympic medal

The first woman to deliver an Olympic medal for India was weightlifter Karnam Malleswari. She achieved this feat during the 2000 Sydney Games when she lifted 110kg in 'snatch' and 130kg in 'clean and jerk' to bring home the bronze medal while competing in the 69kg weight category.

Most Olympic appearance by an Indian

Leander Paes

The tennis legend, Leander Paes holds the record for most Olympic appearance by an Indian. He has played in seven Olympics, starting from the 1992 Barcelona Games to the 2016 Rio Games and has also clinched a bronze medal during the 1996 Atlanta Games. He is currently eyeing for his eighth consecutive Olympics during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Two Olympic medals from a family

The Paes family has contributed two Olympic medals for India. While father Vece Paes was a member of the bronze medal winning Indian hockey team during the 1972 Munich Olympics, his son – Leander Paes brought home the bronze medal in men's tennis single during the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The youngest Indian Olympic medallist

PV Sindhu is the youngest Indian to win an Olympic medal. Sindhu achieved this feat aged 21 years when she won the silver medal in women's singles at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. She broke the record set by Vijender Singh in the 2008 Beijing Games to become the youngest Indian Olympic medallist.

First and only Indian with two individual Olympic medals

Grappler Sushil Kumar is the only Indian with two individual Olympic medals for India. He first won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Games and then backed it up with silver at the 2012 London Olympics to become the first and only Indian to have two individual Olympic medals.

Only Indian woman with an Olympic silver

PV Sindhu became the first and only Indian woman to have won an Olympic silver medal during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. All the other Indian woman to have won an Olympic medal – Karnam Malleswari, Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and Sakshi Malik have a bronze medal in their kitty.

India's only individual Olympic gold

Abhinav Bindra has won the only individual gold medal for India at the Olympics. He achieved this during the 10m air rifle event at the 2008 Beijing Games. It was also India's first Olympic gold since the 1980 Moscow Games.

India's most successful Olympics campaign

India's most successful Olympics campaign came during the 2012 London Games, when the country won a total of six medals. While, Sushil Kumar and Vijay Kumar won silver medals in their respective sports, the likes of Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom, Yogeshwar Dutt and Gagan Narang bagged bronze medals for India.

Women dominate the Games

Sakshi Malik at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Twice in the Indian Olympic history have Indian women completely outplayed their men counterparts at the Games. This happened first during the 2000 Sydney Games when Karnam Malleswari was the only Indian medallist at the Olympics and then was repeated at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games when only two women – PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik tasted success at the Olympics.

The largest Indian Olympic contingent

India sent it largest contingent to the Olympics during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Though it was a 117 member squad, India returned from the Games with only two medals in their kitty.

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