The real story of India’s 1948 Olympic Gold | KreedOn

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India has won only a single field hockey medal in the 40 years since it last competed on natural turf.

Akshay Kumar’s latest movie ‘Gold’ has taken us back into the history by showing how the Indian men’s hockey team managed to win a gold at the Olympics post-independence. However, while the story may be inspired by real events, there have been many things which the movie Gold did not tell you. The real story of India’s 1948 Olympic Gold remains far more different than what is shown in the movie.

The main character – portrayed by Kumar, is said to have based on Kishan Lal, a former captain of the Indian men’s hockey team. It was him under whose leadership India had won its first gold medal in field hockey at the Olympics as an independent country. Let us have a look at the story of how the Indian team won gold at 1948 Olympics, first time under the Indian flag.

India’s gold quest: 1928-1936 Olympics

The Indian men’s hockey team participated at the 1928 Summer Olympics under the British flag and the captaincy of Jaipal Singh Munda. Much to everyone’s surprise, the team went on to win the gold medal, with the great Major Dhyan Chand scoring a total of 14 goals in the tournament.

Indian hockey team at 1928 Olympics (www.bharatiyahockey.org)

With only three people at the docks to see of the team during their departure to Amsterdam, thousands had gathered to welcome the gold medal winning team at the Bombay Docks.

The Indian team went on to become undisputed hockey champions after winning gold medals at the next two Olympics in 1932 and 1936. Dhyan Chand had become the face of Indian hockey by then and was regarded as the greatest hockey player in the world.

1948 Olympic gold - KreedOn
Dhyan Chand at the 1936 Olympics against France(Creative Commons)

1948 Olympic Gold and post-independence dominance

India had lost a few of their hockey players during partition. Some of the players started playing for the Pakistan hockey team and former teammates only met as rivals during the 1948 Olympics in London.

There were even suggestions to field a joint India-Pakistan team at the Olympics, but the idea was turned down and there came two separate squads for the recently independent countries. The then president of the Indian Hockey Federation, Naval Tata, managed to combine a team of players to send to the Olympics, led by Kishan Singh.

1948 Olympic gold - KreedOn
Independent India’s hockey team (The Post)

While it is shown in the movie that the Indian team struggled to find a place to practice before the Olympics, it was not quite the case. “The Partition did not hit us much in terms of available talent. Just one player from across the border could have walked into the squad — A.I.S. Dara (from the 1936 Olympic team who became the captain of Pakistan). We had enough good players to send two teams to London,” said Jaswant Singh Rajput, who was a part of the team and played left half.

Kishan Lal- Captain of the Indian gold medal winning team

Major Dhyan Chand had retired before the 1948 Olympics. With the world’s biggest sporting competition back after a gap of 12 years, it was not expected from India to go on to win a gold medal.

At the time, Kishan Lal played for BB & CI Railways (Currently known as the Western Railways) and was one of the rising stars when Dhyan Chand was at the peak of his prime. Lal soon became a renowned name in the Indian hockey and was eventually appointed as the captain of the team heading to London.

1948 Olympic gold - KreedOn
Kishan Lal during his coaching days (Sukhwant Singh)

Lal is remembered as one of the greatest inside forwards of the game and probably the fastest to play in the wing position. He is known to have been a major player from the 1948 Indian hockey team, who helped put the team together.

It was the first time that India would be facing the Great Britain team, who were making a comeback at the event. India thrashed their political rivals 4-0 to clinch the fourth Olympic gold medal and a first for independent India.

1948 Olympic gold - KreedOn
Indian hockey team at 1956 Olympics (dhyanchandhockey.blogspot.com)

India’s gold run at the Olympics continued at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. After a silver at the 1960 Rome Olympics, the Indian men again went on to clinch the gold at 1964 Olympics a Tokyo. In 12 Olympics, India had managed to win a total of 11 medals in Hockey in the era of invincibility.

It was hockey that put India on the world map and even after 38 years of India’s last gold medal at the Olympics, whenever Olympics and hockey are mentioned in the same sentence, the name India is hard to not be connected with it.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Quite Surprising that Roop Singh has not been mentioned by anyone. He was one of the Best Hockey Player after Major Dhyanchand. He was younger brother of Major Dhyanchand……

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