India’s medal in the Olympics: Despite being a fearsome force in cricket, India’s brush with the Olympics has so far been a story of an exceptionally well-fought struggle. Since the very depths of despair, India has leapt a thousand bounds and has fought its ways through the blazes.
Initially, India’s brilliance came in collective efforts as their hockey team won the Gold medal on repeated occasions from 1928 to 1936. They once again won the Gold on back-to-back occasions in 1948, 1952 and 1956.
They kept on battling with their sumptuous form throughout this decade after bagging silver in 1960 at Rome which was followed by gold in 1964. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pump up the same form in the years to come but still managed to maintain a decent position with bronze in 1968 and 1972.
India’s hockey team was a living embodiment of brilliance and most importantly persistent brilliance that inspired countless dreams and goals all across the globe. Several awe-inspiring stories were penned, few of which kissed the sky while a majority of which failed to even cross the household hurdle.
However, when stories are written, it starts brewing an idea and an idea can simply never die. In today’s story, we will be taking a look at India’s silver medals in individual events and the blazing stories behind them.
1. Norman Pritchard – Silver in Men’s 200 m, Silver in Men’s 200 m Hurdles, Paris 1900
They say that what’s there in the name? I will tell you, what’s there in the name of Norman Pritchard later rechristened as Norman Trevor. The name comprised two of India’s first Olympic medals and a bedazzling stint in Hollywood. Pritchard was born in Alipore, Calcutta, went on to spend a few years in jute plantations in Assam, and then decided to participate in the Olympics while he was on a vacation in England.
Pritchard wasn’t simply the first Indian to win a medal in individual events at the Olympics but he was also the first Asian to bag a medal in Paris Olympics. According to the illustrious German coach and athlete, Dr. Otto Peltzer, he said, “Indians should be proud of the fact that Norman Pritchard of India was the first from Asia to win medals in the Paris Olympics in 1900. That was a splendid beginning…a magnificent start for Asia.”
He bagged the silver medals in Men’s 200m sprint and also 200m Hurdles. He then returned to India after winning the medals but went back to England permanently. Post this, he went on to shift to the USA to act in Hollywood with the moniker of Norman Trevor and was a part of a few good movies as well.
2. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore – Silver in Men’s Double Trap, Athens 2004
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was an army colonel who served in the Kargil war in 1999 and was also a significant part of India’s counter-terrorism operations in J&K. Rathore always had a proclivity towards sports as he played multiple ones and excelled comprehensively in all of them. Especially being a part of the army and counter-terrorism operations, he was no pariah to shooting.
When asked about what exactly was his biggest challenge in this transition, he responded by saying that focusing on precision was much more difficult than focusing on the target. He first picked up the gun for sport in 1998 when the Indian army formulated a shooting team.
His first major success arrived at the 2002 Commonwealth Games where he bagged the gold medal which was followed by another ace performance at the Asian Clay Target Championships. Coming to Athens with burning form, he started training with Luca Marini and Russell Mark firing almost up to 80 shots in a day. He also worked very closely with Mauro Perazzi whose guns will later go on to help him win the glorious Silver medal in Men’s Double Trap event.
Despite being at the top of his form and a decent run-up until Athens, he floundered in the opening round, managing only to grab scores of 135 out of 200. UAE’s Shaikh Ahmed Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai’s ruling family went on to grab the Gold. Rathore kept on fighting with three other shooters in the final and had to hit both his flying clay targets to bag the silver. The former colonel shot both the targets and bagged a score of 179 out of 200 in the final to send the nation erupting in a bout of extraordinary exhilaration.
3. Vijay Kumar – Silver in Rapid Fire Pistol, London 2012
This Silver was extremely precious for India because this medal was disparate. This was India’s first medal in a pistol event. After India already receiving a lot of attention in the sport of shooting that was popularized by Rajyavardhan Rathore and Abhinav Bindra, Vijay Kumar successfully uplifted the spirits of India in London with this medal.
His father was a renowned army man and that is when his link with guns began. However, he took up sports professionally after he joined the Indian Army in 2001. He started training under the likes of Russian preceptor, Pavel Smirnov after he was transferred to the Army Marksmanship Unit.
He shortly shot to ascension, bagging a couple of Gold medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Asian games later in that very year. The fact that he bagged the second position in the Asian Championship in 2007 also flagged his tenacity for the forthcoming Olympics.
Sadly, bad luck befell him and he was smitten by Chicken Pox just ahead of the 2008 Olympics putting his year-old preparation on a hold. However, we all know that champions do not give up or give in. This was the exact case with Kumar as he staged a strong watershed by winning silver at ISSF World Shooting Championships.
He followed up this triumph by winning three gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games that included both rapid-fire and center-fire pistol single events.
The Indian shooter was off to a blinder in the first round of the final but was shortly overcome by Cuba’s Leuris Pupo. A close brush with Alexei Klimov kept everyone on their toes but a sad elimination of Klimov ensured a medal finish for Kumar. However, he was tied with China’s ding Feng for the second spot. Yet a resonant display in the seventh round saw him grabbing the silver and penning history for India.
4. Sushil Kumar – Silver in Men’s 66 kg freestyle wrestling, London, 2012
Sushil Kumar was advised to retire on a high when he bagged a bronze in Beijing Olympics. He retorted by saying that he is still to achieve the world. In fact, he did better in the next edition of the Olympics and grabbed silver.
Kumar was on a roll in the following year winning gold in the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship held at Jalandhar. 2010 was also a brilliant year for Sushil as he bagged gold at the Asian Wrestling championship and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi which was laced with an ace in World Wrestling Championship at Moscow.
Sadly for Sushil, he injured his shoulder that halted his momentum in the upcoming years and after the advice of the doctor, London seemed like a pipe dream for him.
However, champions do not quit and he fought back like a true warrior, grabbing the gold medal in a qualifying tournament in China.
His story of the medal in the Olympics was a tale from one of those Hollywood movies. He was six kilos overweight and he had to reduce it within just ten days. He pushed himself to the extreme limits, by starving and wearing heavy clothes while doing his cardio. Unfortunately, things aggravated on the eve of his first bout.
The grappler barfed all the electrolytes that he was given by his doctor, got muscle cramps and started having spasms throughout his body. He was consistently being massaged by his coach and the other members of the team.
All he could manage to face Beijing’s gold medalist, Ramazan Sahin of Turkey was three hours of sleep and he still successfully progressed. Despite losing the first round, Sushil turned the bout on its head using all the experience he could manage.
Such bad were the following hours that he collapsed in the changing room due to exhaustion.
With passing time, he started getting better and started showing an exemplary display of grappling that won him a crucial semi-final against Akzhurev Tanatarov of Kazakhstan.
Once again before the final, he fell ill as he contracted a stomach bug and before he could recover this time, Japanese military man, Tatuhuro Yonemitsu took away the final from him. The silver medal made him the solitary Indian until date to win two Olympic medals in individual sports.
5. PV Sindhu – Women’s singles in Badminton, Rio, 2016
Sindhu used to travel a staggering 56 km to reach the Gopichand academy and train under her mentor, Pullela Gopichand. Her victories against Nozomi Okuhara and Li Xuerui started riveting the public fanfare towards her.
When Saina Nehwal crashed out in the opening rounds, PV Sindhu was shouldered with the humongous onus of fighting for her nation single-handedly.
Sindhu rampaged through Laura Sarosi while had to battle a see-saw war against Michelle Li to make it to the next round.
She then blasted the likes of Tai Tzu-Ying and Wang Yihan in the respective rounds to reach the semis. She was awaited by second-seed, Nozomi Okuhara was absolutely famished for payback.
After a closely fought first set, Sindhu bagged the initial set which was followed by a resounding victory in the second to claim the final berth.
A historic display in the final saw one of the best-contested encounters in the antiquity of badminton. Sindhu was at the top of her game and posted a solid display to clinch the first set. However, Carolina Marin grabbed the last two sets to walk away with the bragging rights despite Sindhu’s best efforts.
Maybe, in the end, things seemed bleak but Sindhu penned history to become the solitary badminton payer to win silver in Olympics.