Indian hockey team reviews nation’s rich history to boost Olympic dreams

With eight gold medals, two silver and a bronze, Indians have a unique record in men’s hockey at the Summer Olympics.

By Subhayan Dutta

Instructed by head coach Graham Reid, Indian hockey players went through the nation’s rich history at the Olympic Games during the two-week mandatory quarantine period at the national camp in Bengaluru.

Indian hockey boasts of an unparalleled record of eight Olympic gold medals, six of which were consecutively won over three decades. Coach Reid reckoned revisiting them was a good way to revitalise his players’ spirit ahead of the Tokyo Games next year.

“During the last two weeks, we learnt about India's extraordinary Olympic history,” Graham Reid told Hockey India

“The players' job was to study a number of Olympic stories and present to the group their individual learnings and what can we use as a team going forward,” Reid explained.

The Indian hockey team. Photo: Hockey India.

After a month-long break, the core group of Indian hockey players have now resumed training for a long away season ahead of the Olympic Games next year.

"We will be using these next few weeks to work on everyone's development plan and focus on skill development while we can improve their aerobic base," Reid said.

"I reminded the players that every action and decision we make will help us to either get closer to our Olympic goal or further away from it,” Reid added. “I told them of the importance of the next few months in this journey.”

Here’s a look back at India’s amazing Olympic journey in men’s hockey.

Indian hockey’s gold foundation

Amsterdam 1928: The 1928 Summer Olympics marked the start of Indian hockey's Golden Age. Under Jaipal Singh Munda’s captaincy, the Indian hockey team beat Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria in the group stages. Dhyan Chand had scored a hat-trick in the final to clinch their first Olympic gold medal by beating hosts Netherlands.

Los Angeles 1932: The next Olympic edition saw only three teams competing - India, Japan and the United States - owing to the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. Indian hockey's dominance continued nevertheless, scoring 35 goals and conceding only two to win their second consecutive gold medal.

Berlin 1936: Another Olympic year meant yet another gold medal for the Indian hockey. After seeing off Japan, Hungary and the United States in the group stages, where Dhyan Chand and co. scored 20 goals, the Indian team defeated France 10-0 in the semis before upstaging hosts Germany 8-1 in the gold medal match.

London 1948: Indian hockey's rich legacy was at stake as the team was returning to the competition after 12 years, having got their independence and with Dhyan Chand retired. But Balbir Singh Sr rose to the occasion as the team defeated Argentina, Austria and Spain in the group stages, They saw off the Netherlands in the semi-final and hosts Great Britain in the final for their fourth consecutive Olympic gold.

Balbir Singh Sr. scored nine goals at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

Helsinki 1952: The Indian hockey team had to deal with internal fights and flailing form while approaching the 1952 Summer Games. The 18-man squad's inexperience with 10 Olympic debutants was a concern as well. But India's rich hockey pedigree was at its finest as the side defeated Austria, Great Britain and the Netherlands to win their fifth Olympic gold medal.

Melbourne 1956: The eighth Olympic hockey tournament is best known for Indian team's impeccable performance that led to their sixth gold medal. India defeated Singapore, Afghanistan and United States in Group A to set up a semi-final against Germany before playing the crunch final against arch-rivals Pakistan. The Indian hockey team had scored 38 goals in the tournament and conceded none.

Tokyo 1964: After Indian hockey’s golden streak was broken by Pakistan at the 1960 Summer Games, the team had bounced back immediately at the 1964 Olympics. Though their campaign in Tokyo wasn’t as dominant in the group stages, where India drew with Spain and Germany, the team was back in their element soon. They defeated Canada, Hong Kong and Australia to set up their third consecutive Olympic gold medal final against Pakistan and won it 1-0 to clinch their seventh Olympic gold.

Moscow 1980: The gold at the 1964 Summer Games was followed by a 16-year gold drought for India where they managed two bronze medals over three Olympic editions. However, Mohammad Shahid rose to the occasion in Moscow as India reached the final yet again after beating hosts Russia in the penultimate clash. European giants, Spain put up a tremendous fight in the final before India edged past them 4-3 to win their eighth Olympic gold medal.