From epic dominance to harrowing drought

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India’s dominance in hockey for nearly three decades, spanning six Olympics in the previous century, is one of the Games’ epic tales. Olympic glory first gave the country, which was firmly under British rule, its own identity, and in subsequent years earned it a lot of pride on the global stage.

India’s first gold medal, even if it was against a depleted field in the 1928 Amsterdam Games, was an unheard-of moment for a nation experiencing its freedom struggle.

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Pioneers: The 1928 team which started the gold rush by winning in Amsterdam.
 

 

The 1932 Los Angeles Games established the country as one of the sport’s powerhouses. The following edition in Berlin enabled India complete a unique hat-trick of gold medals in hockey wizard Dhyan Chand’s farewell Olympics.

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In the post-World War II London Games in 1948, independent India won its first gold medal, beating the host 4-0 in the final. The Tricolour going up on English soil and the national anthem playing in London was special.

India reasserted its supremacy in 1952 in Helsinki, and made it three-in-a-row after Independence, and six-in-a-row overall, in Melbourne. The 1956 edition triggered the mouthwatering India-Pakistan rivalry, with India managing a 1-0 win in the summit clash.

India took silver for the first time in the 1960 Rome Olympics, after losing to Pakistan 1-0, but regained gold with an identical victory over its arch-rival in Tokyo four years later.

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Internal issues were responsible for bronze medals in 1968 and 1972 in Mexico and Munich respectively. But India saw a new low, returning without a medal on astro-turf from the 1976 Montreal Games.

The boycott-marred 1980 Moscow Olympics was the last Games where India won a hockey medal, a gold. The lowest point came when the team failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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