National Sports Day 2021: Celebrating India’s Greatest Sporting Glories


India has had many sporting champions in it’s 75 years of independence and on August 29 celebrates National Sports Day, on the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand.

Here’s a look at India’s greatest sporting triumphs on National Sports Day, also known as Rashtirya Khel Diyash.

Though Dhyan Chand himself led the Indian team (under British rule) to three consecutive Olympic gold medals (in 1928, 1932 and 1936), it was at the 1948 London Summer Games that Independent India defeated hosts Great Britain 4-0 to win their first Olympic gold post Independence.

Two years later in 1950, Abdul Bari attained individual glory as he reached the British Open squash final, but lost to Egyptian Mahmoud Karim.

In 1951, India hosted the Asian Games in New Delhi, the first major sporting event as an independent nation and, led by the magic of Sailen Manna, went on to win the gold medal in football. India went on to repeat the feat at the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games.

India’s first individual Olympic medal came in Helsinki 1952 as wrestler Kashaba Jadhav won bronze. Lila Ram became the first Indian wrestler to bag a gold medal at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff.

The legendary Milkha Singh broke the 400m Olympic record but lost the bronze medal by just 0.1 second at 1960 Rome as ‘The Flying Sikh’ went on to win gold at the Asian Games in 1958 as well as 1962.

Come 1960, Ramanathan Krishnan reached the semifinals of the men’s singles category at Wimbledon and managed to replicate the feat in 1961.

Two year later in 1962, Padam Bahadur Mall was the first Indian boxer to win a gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

In terms of hockey, India in 1975, notched up the first Hockey World Cup with a 2-1 win over Pakistan in Malaysia.

Indian badminton’s first star, Prakash Padukone, became the first Indian 1980 to win the All England Badminton Title.

Arguably the greatest moment in Indian sporting history that changed the nation’s outlook was the 1983 Cricket World Cup won as Kapil Dev’s Devils beat the legendary West Indies to the team.

Then in 1986, PT Usha made the whole country proud in Track and field as she won one silver and four gold medals at the Seoul Asian Games.

10 years later in 1996, Leander Paes claimed the bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics, after losing to Andre Agassi in the semifinals.

Then in 1997, Mahesh Bhupathi, along with Japan’s Rika Hiraki, won the French Open mixed doubles to become the first Indian to win a Grand Slam title.

The revolution in Tennis well and truly underway as in 1999, the pair of Paes and Bhupathi reached the men’s doubles finals in all four Grand Slams, winning the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as the ATP Masters.

In cricket, Anil Kumble, in 1999, became only the second bowler after Englishman Jim Laker to take all 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan in Delhi, conceding just 74 runs.

As the new millennium dawned, Weightlifter Karnam Malleswari became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, as she claimed bronze in the women’s 69kg category at the 2000 Athens Summer Games.

The same year, in 2000, Viswanathan Anand brought a whole new sport to the attention of the nation when he won the FIDE World Chess Championship, becoming the first Indian to do so. He held on to the title till 2013, defending it three times in that period. Anju Bobby George created history in 2003, becoming the first Indian medallist at the World Athletics Championship as she claimed a long jump bronze in Paris.

A year later, at the 2004 Sydney Olympics. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the silver medal which was India’s first silver in an individual event at the Summer Games. He later went on to become India’s sports minister in 2014.

In 2005, non-traditional sports made an impression in the Indian psyche, as Pankaj Advani won the IBSF World Billiards Championships in Malta and Narain Karthikeyan became the first Formula One driver from India.

In 2007, India won the inaugural T20 Cricket World Cup, beating Pakistan in the final as Yuvraj Singh smashed six sixes in an over during a match against England.

Then in 2008, at the Beijing Olympics, Abhinav Bindra made history as he became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics,, winning the honours in the men’s 10m air rifle shooting competition.

Sushil Kumar won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics and went on to better this achievement four years later, when he settled for silver.

In the same year, in cricket, Sachin Tendulkar etched his name in the history books by slamming 200 not out against South Africa at Gwalior in an ODI match, becoming the first batter ever to achieve the feat.

Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman to win a Super Series Tournament in 2009, beating China’s Lin Wan in Jakarta.At the 2011 Cricket World Cup, India did what no other team had ever done before, as the MS Dhoni team became the first to win the CWC at home. In the final, Dhoni promoted himself up the batting order and finished things off with a six as India defeated Sri Lanka to be champions after a wait of 28 years.

The 2012 London Olympics was a landmark event for India as the nation produced their best ever medal haul with six medals – two silvers and four bronze. Shooter Vijay Kumar and wrestler Sushil won silver medals while shooter Gagan Narang, boxer Mary Kom, wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and shuttler Saina Nehwal claimed for bronze medals.

PV Sindhu lost in the final to Spain’s Carolina Marin to settle for silver in the women singles badminton at the 2012 London Summer Games.

The same year in cricket, Sachin Tendulkar became the first batter to score 100 international centuries.

In 2014, five time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom returned to boxing after her two-year break and won her first Asian Games gold medal.

Sania Mirza, in 2015, became the first Indian woman to rank world no.1 in doubles, after she won the Family Circle Cup partnering Martina Hingis. The pair went on to win the Wimbledon, US Open that year, and Australian Open(the next year in 2016).

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, table tennis star Manika Batra claimed four medals – winning gold in both the women’s singles and doubles.

In 2018, Hima Das won gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships with a time of 51.46 seconds, becoming the first Indian sprinter to win a gold medal at an international track event.

PV Sindhu became the world champion, beating Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, and became the first Indian to win the BWF World Championships in 2019.

The Tokyo Olympics, which was supposed to be held in 2020 got postponed to 2021 and it perfectly worked out for India as the contingent returned witsh it best ever medal haul.

Mirabai Chanu won India’s first medal she became the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic silver medal.

The second medal of the Tokyo Olympics was won by Lovlina Borgohain, a bronze in the women’s welterweight (64-69kg) category. It was also the India’s third ever Olympic medal in boxing.

PV Sindhu secured India’s third medal when she won a bronze in the women’s badminton singles. With that she became India’s only second double Olympic medallist.

The Indian men’s hockey team then ended a 41-year medal drought at the Olympics after defeating Germany 5-4 in a thrilling comeback victory in the bronze medal match.

Indian wrestler Ravi Dahiya then won a silver medal in the men’s freestyle 57kg category, which was soon followed by Bajrang Punia winning bronze medal in the 65kg freestyle category.

India’s Tokyo Olympics then came to a grand end with Neeraj Chopra winning a historic gold medal. With a throw of 87.58m he won independent India’s first-ever medal and gold medal in athletics.

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