Before 1948, the Indian men’s hockey team had won three three gold medals in Olympic Games—in 1928, 1932 and 1936. But all those golds were won by India as a nation which was ruled by the British Empire.
But it was different on August 12, 1948. Exactly 362 days after India achieved independence, the men’s hockey team won an Olympic Gold at the packed Wembley Stadium in London for India, which was now an independent nation, free from the clutches of the British Rule.
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In their Olympic campaign in 1948, India had demolished Argentina 9-1 and Austria 8-0 before beating Spain 2-0 in the league stage. They then won on to beat the Netherlands in the semi-finals by a 2-1 margin and were slated to face their former colonisers – the British in the summit clash. However, India came out with yet another ruthless performance and defeated Great Britain 4-0 and scripted history.
The win was also significant in the sense that partition had just occurred between India and Pakistan and there was chaos in the country. However, despite this and the paucity of funds that the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), the men’s hockey team had displayed a brilliant performance throughout the Olympic Games and went on to clinch an inspirational gold.
Interestingly, a suggestion was put forward to field a joint India-Pakistan team in the 1948 Olympic Games. However, the suggestion was paid no heed and both the countries decided to form separate squads. Pakistan, after losing to Netherlands 4-1 in the replay after their first game was drawn 1-1, had finished fourth in the prestigious quadrennial event.
After the 1948 Olympics, India went on to win golds in the next two Olympic Games as well. They then won the gold in Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and their last and final gold till date came in 1980