The Olympics is the greatest sporting event in the world. India at Olympics might have not won too many medals but the story of each medal holds numerous stories of struggle, zeal & never giving up attitude of our athletes. Olympic players of India fill our chest with pride. So far, India has won 28 Olympic medals – 9 gold, 6 silver, and 13 bronze. The 2012 London Olympics was the best for India to date. India grabbed a total of six medals in the event. More than 100 athletes have already qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, hope for the medal soars and the mood is upbeat.
Let’s take a look at the top 15 Indian Olympic winners who have performed well in the Olympics over the years.
List of Top 15 Indian Olympic Winners | Greatest Indian Olympians
|Games||India olympic players||Medal||Sport||Event|
|1996 Atlanta||Leander Paes||Bronze||Tennis||Men’s singles|
|2000 Sydney||Karnam Malleswari||Bronze||Weightlifting||Women’s 69kg|
|2004 Athens||Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore||Silver||Shooting||Men’s double trap|
|2008 Beijing||Abhinav Bindra||Gold||Shooting||Men’s 10 m Air Rifle|
|2008 Beijing||Vijender Singh||Bronze||Boxing||Middleweight|
|2008 Beijing||Sushil Kumar||Bronze||Wrestling||Men’s freestyle 66kg|
|2012 London||Sushil Kumar||Silver||Wrestling||Men’s freestyle 66kg|
|2012 London||Saina Nehwal||Bronze||Badminton||Women’s singles|
|2012 London||Mary Kom||Bronze||Boxing||Women’s flyweight|
|2012 London||Gagan Narang||Bronze||Shooting||Men’s 10m Air Rifle|
|2012 London||Yogeshwar Dutt||Bronze||Wrestling||Men’s freestyle 60kg|
|2016 Rio de Janeiro||PV Sindhu||Silver||Badminton||Women’s singles|
|2016 Rio de Janeiro||Sakshi Malik||Bronze||Wrestling||Women’s freestyle 58kg|
First Indian individual Olympic gold medal winner: Abhinav Bindra
The first Indian to win a gold medal in the Olympics is Abhinav Bindra. He has redefined shooting in India. His illustrious career is a result of undying passion and commitment. Not many know that he started shooting reluctantly when he was in school. The reluctance turned into a dream very soon!. He is one of the greatest Indian shooters & in the world.
- At a very young age, Abhinav made his Commonwealth and Olympic debut. However, his first breakthrough came in 2001. He won a bronze medal at the Munich Cup. In the next few years, he achieved one milestone after another.
- In 2002, he won his first CWG medal and in 2006 he conquered the world by winning the World Championship. The biggest moment of Abhinav’s career came in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win gold medal in Olympics.
- After winning more than 180 international medals, he made the country proud for 22 years. Abhinav retired from the professional shooting in 2016. He decided to pass on the baton to youngsters. Now, he is enjoying another chapter of his life by becoming an entrepreneur and guide.
First Indian to win Olympic medal: Leander Paes
In the list of the greatest Indian Olympic players as well as world tennis Leander Paes secured a very high position. He is definitely a tennis legend in India. Having started his career with the cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar in 1990, Leander Paes has had a long and eventful career.
- Leander Paes brought the nation’s first individual Olympic medal in 44 years at the Atlanta Olympics 1996. Leander Paes has eight doubles and ten mixed doubles grand slam titles. He is one of the most successful doubles players in the world. He won his first Wimbledon Junior title in 1990 and became the world’s number one junior player.
First Indian women Olympic Medal winner: Karnam Malleswari
Karnam Malleswari is a true legend in the Indian women’s weightlifting circuit. She has brought many laurels to the country with her breathtaking performances. Not just the world weightlifting championship, but Karnam Malleswari created history when she won the Bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
- Karnam Malleswari won the world title in the 54kg division in 1994 and 1995 and placed third in 1993 and 1996.
- She won the world weightlifting championship title in China in the year 1995 with a record lift off 113 kg. For which she won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.
- She managed a great victory in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the women’s 69 kg division where she won a bronze medal. It was a lasting memory for her as well as for the nation as she was the first female medal winner in Olympics.
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore
Rathore gifted independent India its first silver medal in Olympics. It was a proud moment for the entire country. In the period of 4-5 years from 2002-2006, he won 26 international medals for double trap shooting.
- Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the gold medal in Commonwealth Games 2002, it was the start of an illustrious journey. It was a twin victory for Rathore as the team won a gold medal as well.
- Then, he went on to win the silver at the World Championships 2003 in Sydney. It was an amazing feat as India got a medal after 40 years!
- The Asian Clay Target Championship, World Shooting Championship, and the Asian Games followed in the coming years. Rathore only aimed for the top position and brought home a gold medal.
- However, one silver medal turned out to be a lot more precious than any other gold medal for him. It was the Olympic silver! Rathore’s dream was fulfilled when he stood on the podium and the Indian flag was unfurled.
Vijender Singh made his Olympic debut in the 2004 Athens Olympics. He scripted his name in the pages of history by winning India’s first boxing medal at the Olympics. The bronze he won, shone brighter than any gold for Indians.
- He continued his medal streak by winning laurels at the Commonwealth Games, Boxing Championships, and Asian Games among others.
- In the year 2015, Vijender Singh finally turned pro. As a professional boxer.
India at Olympics: Sushil Kumar
Wrestler Sushil Kumar hails from Baprola, Delhi. He stepped into the wrestling Akhada for the first time at the age of 14. Sushil Kumar was inspired by his father and cousin, who both were wrestlers. However, the wrestling journey had not been easy for Sushil. Being from a humble family he had to face financial constraints. But the sacrifices of his family members seemed worthwhile, as the boy becomes a champion by winning the gold medal at the World Cadet Games.
- From here on, there is no stopping him. He conquers one akhada after another and wins not just medals, but also the imagination of the entire nation.
- Sushil Kumar has numerous records to his name. He belongs to the elusive club of having two individual Olympic medals to his name.
- Commonwealth Games, world championships, Asian championships, Asian Games, etc.
India at Olympics: Saina Nehwal
Saina Nehwal is an Indian badminton player and India’s first shuttler to win a medal at the Olympics (bronze in 2012 London Olympics). She has been a world no. 1, and the only Indian woman to reach the landmark.
- Saina has 24 International titles to her name to date. Off the 24, 10 are superseries titles.
- Saina is an eminent athlete who has given an immense contribution to making the sport of Badminton popular in the country.
- Today she is the face of the government’s Beti Bachao campaign.
- In 2006, when she became the first Indian shuttler to win the Philippines Open at the age of 16.
India at Olympics: Mary Kom
Mary Kom is an Indian Olympic boxer who hails from the North-Eastern state of Manipur. Mary is a 5-time World Amateur Boxing Champion, and the only woman boxer to win a medal in the six world championships apiece. In 2012 Mary became the only Indian woman boxer to qualify for the Summer Olympics when she competed in the London Olympics. She went on to clinch the bronze medal in the 51 kg flyweight category.
- Mary Kom is also the first Indian woman boxer to earn a Gold Medal at the Asian Games (2014 in Incheon, South Korea) and at the Commonwealth Games (2018 Gold Coast, Australia).
- Kom was a member of the Rajya Sabha after being nominated by the President of India on 26 April 2016. Mary is an active supporter of wild animals.
India at Olympics: Gagan Narang
Born to Punjabi parents, Bhimsen and Amarjit Narang, Gagan grew up in Chennai. His father is a retired Chief Manager of Air India. Though originally from Panipat in Haryana, the family shifted when his father was transferred to Chennai.
- In 2003, Narang won the gold medal at the Afro Asian Games in Hyderabad. He won the award in the men’s 10m air rifle competition. This golden spree continued with the air rifle gold medal at the 2006 World Cup.
- The 2006 Commonwealth was very special for Narang with a staggering tally of four gold medals. He also won the top honors at the 2008 World cup in China. Subsequently, he qualified for the 2008 ISSF World Cup Final.
- The next edition of the Commonwealth Games, the 2010 New Delhi Games, was again truly golden for Narang. Again, he won four gold medals. He also shot a perfect score of 600 in the 10 m air rifles singles event and set a new record.
- At the 2012 London Olympics, Narang scripted his name in history, as well as the hearts of all Indians, by winning the bronze medal in the 10 m air rifle event with a score of 701.1.
Wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt won his first-ever international Gold medal in the year 1994. He participated in the International School Cadet Sports Competition held in Poland. After his win, Yogi’s parents saw the spark in their son. They were sure that one day he will represent India at the world level. In the year 1996, after completing his education, Dutt came to Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium to make a career in wrestling.
- The biggest success in his young career came in the year 2003. Yogeshwar Dutt won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship held in London. After this gold medal-winning feat, Yogeshwar never looked back.
- In 2004, Yogi was selected for the Athens Olympics and finally, in London Olympics 2012 Yogeshwar won a Bronze medal in the men’s 60 kg at the world’s greatest sporting platform.
India at Olympics: PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu realized the dreams of millions of Indians by becoming the first Indian woman to win an Olympic silver medal, and the only second Indian badminton player to ever win an Olympic medal after Saina Nehwal.
- Sindhu won silver in Women’s singles at Commonwealth Games 2018.
- In addition to that, she also won a silver medal at the BWF World Championships in 2017 and 2018.
- In 2019, the shuttler became the first player from the country to be crowned as the BWF World Champion.
India at Olympics: Sakshi Malik
The year 2014 was a standout for Malik. She started it by winning the gold medal in the 60 kg category of the Dave Schultz International Tournament. This golden feat was followed by her winning the silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. However, at the 2014 World Wrestling Championships in Tashkent, Malik couldn’t make it past the Round of 16. But a fighter at heart, Sakshi Malik bounced back in May 2015 by winning the bronze medal at the 2015 Asian Wrestling Championships in Doha.
- In the year 2016, Sakshi Malik qualified for Rio Olympics by reaching the finals of the 58 kg category at the 2016 World Wrestling Olympic Qualification tournament in Istanbul, Turkey.
- On the penultimate day of the Rio Olympics, Sakshi had fought a total of five bouts to finish on the podium. With this, she became the fourth female Olympic medalist from India to win an Olympic medal.
India at Olympics: PT Usha
The list of the Greatest Indian Olympians can never be completed without mentioning the name of Payyoli express. PT Usha started her international career in 1980 at the Moscow, Olympics. But disappointment struck as she lost bronze by 0.01 seconds. She proved her real mettle when she won silver medals in 100m and 200m events at the 9th Asian Games in 1982 in New Delhi. In the 1985 Jakarta Asian Meet, PT Usha earned her title of the sprint queen as she won five gold medals (in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, and the 4x400m relay) and a bronze in the 100m relay. In the 1986 Seoul Asian games, Usha notched up four Gold medals and silver.
- Usha has won 102 national /International medals and awards throughout her illustrious career.
- She won 13 Gold medals in the Asian Championships and a total of 33 International medals.
- She received the prestigious Arjuna Award and Padma Shree in 1984 for showing outstanding performance in sports.
- A year later in 1985, she was adjudged as the best women athlete at the Jakarta Asian Athlete meet.
- To add to her glory, In 1986 at the Seoul Asian Games, the Indian Olympic association awarded her with the Adidas Golden Shoe and named her the Sportsperson of the century.
India at Olympics: Dhyan Chand
One of the greatest Olympians of all time is Mj. Dhyan Chand. Every year, 29 August is celebrated as sports day because it’s Dhyan Chand’s birthday. The President of India gives prestigious awards in sports on this day like Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna, and Dronacharya awards.
- Dhyan Chand scored a total of 400 international goals in his career. In 1956, he was honored with Padma Bhushan.
- He played three times for the Indian hockey team in the Olympics- Amsterdam (1928), Los Angels (1932), Berlin ( 1936). In all the tournaments India won. In the Olympic game of 1932, India won the final match defeating the USA by 23-1. It was a world record for a long time.
- Among these 23 goals, Dhyan Chand’s goals were 8. In the final match of the Berlin Olympics, Dhyan Chand played half of the match barefooted to increase his speed. India won the match by 8-1.
- Dhyan Chand was retired from hockey in 1948.
India at Olympics: Milkha Singh
The list of legendary Indian Olympic players can never be completed without the greatest Indian athlete, Milkha Singh. He was born in Govindpura, Punjab (present-day Punjab, Pakistan), had a tragic childhood. Milkha Singh’s parents and some of his siblings were killed in the violence that erupted during the partition. After living in various refugee camps and sometimes even the railway station, Singh moved in with a married sister in Delhi. However, as a result of the traumatic experience during the partition, he was inclined to become a dacoit.
- After some persuasion by his brother, Milkha decided to join the Indian Army. His life changed drastically when he started running.
- First through Inter-Services tournaments and later at the international level, Singh proved his mettle.
- The Flying Sikh of India made numerous records and won a lot of medals. His dream run at the Asian Games and Olympic qualification catapulted him to iconic status. His 400 meters national record stood for 38 years!.
- Milkha Singh died on 18 June 2021 after post-Covid complications.