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How Will India Fare at the Olympics?

With the Paris Olympics upon us, everyone is speculating about who the big teams will be in the medal counts. Most people know that the US is the winningest country in different Olympic sports historically. They are followed by different European countries, with Germany, the UK, and France following closely behind.

When people think of India and sports, they most certainly think of cricket. But there are, in fact, Olympic sports at which the world’s most highly populated country excels. Let’s take a closer look.

History of India at the Olympics

India first sent athletes to the 1900 Olympics, although as it was still under British rule at the time, it was not able to compete under an independent flag. They did, however, have their own constituency of athletes as far back as the 1920 Games. It was after this Olympics that India started establishing distinct sports federations to govern the activities of the country’s sports.

In 1947, following independence from the UK, India formed its own Olympic team under its own flag. And in 1964, it sent its first full team to a Winter Olympics. Participation has ebbed and flowed over the years.

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What sports does India excel at?

Although many people probably don’t associate it with India, the country was a multiple-time Olympic champion in field hockey for several decades. The country has the most wins of any country in Olympic history in the sport, having won gold at numerous Olympics all the way back to 1928. They were known as the team to beat for years, although this started to change in the 1980s. There are different theories as to why this is. Some say that because cricket is so overwhelmingly popular in the country funding for other sports has gotten diverted, and that coaching and institutional support has correspondingly gone downhill, as well.

Whatever the reason, field hockey has been somewhat on the decline in recent years, and no one is sure whether or by what means it will pick back up. However, other sports have been making an appearance recently. In the 2000 Olympics, India saw its first female athlete take a medal in female weightlifting. Indian athletes have also been victorious in trap shooting and boxing.

The country sent a full six-person contingent to the 2012 Olympics, and they ended up winning multiple medals in men’s wrestling. And the Indian women again stood out, winning in badminton. This was followed by further victories in badminton and track and field in successive Olympics. And although she wasn’t victorious, Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar threw the most difficult vault ever recorded in a recent Olympics.

What will 2024 bring for India?

India has a variety of athletes poised to compete in Paris later this year. Sports include archery, track and field, badminton, boxing, equestrian, field hockey, sailing, and shooting. If recent history is any judge, the Indians will continue to excel at badminton, shooting, and possibly track and field.

Although some of these sports are relatively new for the country, both male and female athletes have been making their marks recently in previously unexpected ways.

The future is yet to be seen

There is little doubt that cricket will remain the most popular sport in India in the foreseeable future. Everything from government funding to physical infrastructure to popularity among young people indicates this. But this doesn’t mean that other sports won’t have a place on India’s international athletic scene in the future. And field hockey may just come back still. As history will tell, sometimes all that’s needed is the right spark from a charismatic coach or an individual victory to spur a whole movement within the country. And that could be the beginning of a whole new era of success.