National Sports Day is celebrated every year in India on 29 August, which marks the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand. On this day, the notable contributions of Indian sportspersons are acknowledged and reminisced. The President of India confers prestigious awards like the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award and the Arjuna Award to the greatest sportspersons in India.
Since independence, India has risen by leaps and bounds in sports and carved a niche for itself with glorious achievements. Our athletes have re-written records in world events like Olympics, Commonwealth Games (CWG) etc. and engraved their names in golden letters with extraordinary feats on various occasions. There have been so many glorious chapters in India’s sports history that it’s quite difficult to enumerate only few of them.
However, we have enlisted the five biggest moments for India in Sports since Independence. Let’s take a look and try to relive the incredible success and feats by our acclaimed sportspersons.
1 First Olympic medal after Independence, London Olympics 1948
The Olympic Games are the pinnacle in sports. The mega event is the highest sporting extravaganza in which several countries participate with their best athletes. Just one year after independence, a major breakthrough for Indian sports came in the Olympics in 1948 when the hockey men’s team clinched gold in London. For India, still recovering from the scars of partition before independence and trying to rebuild itself at world level, it was a giant leap in sports.
The gold medal match in men’s hockey was played between India and Great Britain. Led by Captain Kishan Lal, the Indian team emerged victorious 4-0 margin and cherished the joy of getting India’s tri-colour unfurled on British soil. Balbir Singh Sr, K D Singh Babu, Leslie Claudius, Keshav Datt and Trilochan Singh were some of the prominent members of the Indian team.
2 Cricket World Cup win, 1983
Cricket had started gaining popularity in India after Independence but the zenith for India in the game came in 1983 when the men’s team lifted the World Cup at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, England. The World Cup title marked the beginning of a cricket revolution in India and the craze for the game increased manifold. It marked India’s stamp of authority in cricket as a sport.
The West Indies had won the previous two editions of the World Cup in 1975 3nd 1979 under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd and were considered invincible. True to their tag, in the final at Lord’s, they skittled the Indian team comprising legendary Sunil Gavaskar, Kris Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath and Kapil Dev for just 183 runs. In reply, the West Indies were cruising before Madan Lal got the wickets of Desmond Haynes and dangerous Sir Viv Richards to turn the match towards India. Captain Kapil Dev had taken a stunning catch Richards while running backwards, which still inspires cricket enthusiasts across India. West Indies were eventually bowled out for just 140 runs and India scripted history by winning the World Cup.
3 First Olympic gold medal in individual sports, Beijing 2008)
More than fifty years had passed since India’s independence in 1947, but an Olympic gold medal in individual sports had kept eluding the country. It took the brilliance of Abhinav Bindra, who clinched a historic gold medal in the men’s 10m air rifle shooting event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to break India free from the shackles of not having an individual Olympic gold. Bindra’s achievement lifted the spirits of entire India and filled sportspersons with belief that the best could be achieved.
On August 11, 2008, the then 25-year old Bindra shot a near-perfect 10.8 on his last shot in the men’s 10m air rifle shooting event and eclipsed past China’s Zhu Qinan in the campaign for gold. With a total score of 700.5, Bindra clinched the gold and for the first time as sports lovers in India heard the national anthem playing at the Olympics in an individual sports event.
4 First Olympic gold medal in track and field Tokyo, 2021
Independent India had never won any medal in track and field events in the Olympics and in 2020 and 2021, the gloom of Covid pandemic had affected all walks of life including sports, across the globe and led to the postponement of Tokyo Olympics. When the Games finally started in 2021, all eyes were on Murali Sreeshankar(Men’s long jump), Kamalpreet Kaur (Women’s discus throw) and Neeraj Chopra (Men’s javelin throw). But by the start of penultimate day of the games on August 7, India hadn’t won any medal in athletics.
On August 7, sailing and soaring through the sky, Neeraj’s javelin landed at 87.58m and the moment got recorded forever in India’s sports history as it was enough to get India its first ever podium finish in athletics at Olympics. Neeraj clinched the gold as Jakub Vadlejch’s throw landed at 86.67, much behind the Indian athletes’. The impact of Neeraj’s landmark achievement was big and quick as in the CWG 2022, India’s Annu Rani clinched bronze in women’s javelin throw to become the first Indian woman ever to win a medal in the event at CWG. In a remarkable co-incidence, Annu’s win came on August 7, 2022, the same day Neeraj had won the Olympic gold. August 7 is now celebrated as National Javelin Day to honour Neeraj’s Olympic gold.
5 Thomas Cup Win in Badminton, Bangkok 2022)
The Thomas Cup is one of the biggest events in badminton and also known as the world men’s team championship. Before 2022, of all the Thomas Cup tournaments held since 1948–1949, only five countries namely Indonesia (14 times), China (10 times), Malaysia (5 times), Denmark (1 time) and Japan (1 time) had won the title. When the Indian team comprising stars like Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty and HS Prannoy entered the Thomas Cup in 2022, badminton experts hailed it as a strong team but none predicted them to reach the finals.
The Indian team made a statement victory over Denmark in the semifinals of the tournament. In the finals, India were up against 14-time champions Indonesia. The Indian team played sensational rallies and scored one point after another over the Indonesians en route to winning three of the first five matches to clinch the crown. The 3-0 resounding win by India to clinch the Thomas Cup title made waves in the world of badminton.