The Tokyo Olympics came to an end on Sunday, with the torch being passed to Paris in a picturesque closing ceremony. After being delayed by a year due to the pandemic, the Olympics returned as Japan pulled off the event with success.
For India, the curtains came down on a record-setting campaign a day before, with the final event fittingly being javelin throw where Neeraj Chopra won India’s first-ever athletics gold medal.
Chopra’s gold was historic for more than one reason. It was also India’s seventh medal at Tokyo – making it the most successful Olympics campaign in Indian history. Just minutes before, wrestler Bajrang Punia had won the sixth medal to equal India’s best-ever tally which was set in London 2012 and Chopra broke the record with a throw to remember.
In London 2012, India won six medals – two silvers and four bronze. Pistol shooter Vijay Kumar, wrestler Sushil Kumar won silver, while boxer MC Mary Kom, shuttler Saina Nehwal, rifle shooter Gagan Narang, and grappler Yogeshwar Dutt had won bronze.
Tokyo went a step further, adding a gold to this equation. Apart from Neeraj Chopa’s historic effort, weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu and wrestler Ravi Kumar Dahiya won silver. Star shuttler PV Sindhu, boxer Lovlina Borgohain, grappler Bajrang Punia and the Indian men’s hockey team won bronze.
Here’s a chronological look at India’s medals. Talk about a golden end.
India's medals at Tokyo 2020
|Silver||Mirabai Chanu||Weightlifting||Women's 49 kg||24 July|
|Bronze||PV Sindhu||Badminton||Women's singles||1 August|
|Bronze||Lovlina Borgohain||Boxing||Women's welterweight||4 August|
|Silver||Ravi Kumar Dahiya||Wrestling||Men's freestyle 57 kg||5 August|
|Bronze||Men's hockey team||Field hockey||Men's tournament||5 August|
|Gold||Neeraj Chopra||Athletics||Men's javelin throw||7 August|
|Bronze||Bajrang Punia||Wrestling||Men's freestyle 65 kg||7 August|
India's Olympic campaigns with multiple medals
The previous best was Beijing 2008, when India won three medals with the first ever individual gold – Abhinav Bindra in 10m air rifle along with boxer Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar’s bronze.
In the natural progression, Rio 2016 was a massive blip with just two medals – PV Sindhu’s silver and Sakshi Malik’s bronze.
Before this, the only time India had won two medals at a single Games was back in 1952, when wrestler Khasabha Jadhav won bronze to go with the men’s hockey team gold.
Note: Norman Pritchard won two silver medals at the 1900 Paris Games in athletics – 200m sprint and hurdles – which makes him India’s most successful track and field athlete, but while the medals are attributed to India per IOC, there have been question marks over his participation during the height of Britain’s colonisation as an Indian athlete. But since it is in the IOC database for Indian NOC, we will consider them in the tables throughout.
India's historic medal tally at Olympics
India has won a single medal at 13 different Games, with 10 of this coming from hockey team during the heyday of the men’s team on either side of Independence.
The first Games India didn’t medal at after Independence was the 1976 Olympics, when Indian hockey team failed to reach the semi-finals.
The men’s hockey team won gold at Moscow in 1980 but that was the end of an era of sorts. For the next three Olympics, India came back without a medal.
Till 1996, when Leander Paes broke the duck with a bronze in tennis, also ending a much longer 44-year-old wait for an individual Olympic medal. Since then, India has won a medal at every Games, with the count and colour slowly getting better.
At Sydney 2000, Karnam Malleshwari became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal when she won the bronze in weightlifting. She was joined by Mirabai Chanu in 2021, marking the end of a two-decade wait.
Four years later in Athens, India won its first individual silver medal when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore came second in men’s double trap at the Athens 2004 Games. Four years after that, India won more than one medal at Beijing before the then record London 2012 campaign.
Pause, rewind, play: 1928-1956 – A brief history of Indian hockey’s golden era at the Olympics End of a long wait – when Leander Paes made India proud at the 1996 Olympics Karnam Malleswari interview: ‘That a girl could win an Olympic medal came as a shock to everyone’
Know your legend: KD Jadhav, India’s first individual Olympic medallist, succeeded against the odds
But never before has India enjoyed success at the Olympics like it has at Tokyo, with the largest ever contingent winning seven medals.
Among the different disciplines, badminton extended the runs of a medal at the last three Games to complete a hat-trick. Sindhu became the first Indian woman, in the process, to win more than one individual Olympic Games medal. Wrestling too continued its medal streak, with at least one medal in the last four editions.
While shooting has been good for India in the 21st century, for the second consecutive Games the Indians drew a blank.
Another memorable stat to remember for Indian fans from the Tokyo Games would be the end of a long wait for a hockey medal. It was the 12th medal in the sport for India, all of them so far coming from the men’s event.
Olympic medals per event for India
|Wrestling - Freestyle||0||2||5||7|
Chopra’s gold took India into the top 50 of the overall medal tally for the first time since Moscow 1980.
Overall medal tally
|1||United States of America||39||41||33||113|
|2||People's Republic of China||38||32||18||88|
Indeed, this count could have been even better for India had not one but three close fourth/fifth-place finishes at Tokyo went slightly different way. Aditi Ashok finished fourth in golf, wrestler Deepak Punia lost his bronze medal bout and classified fifth while the women’s hockey team also went down in the third-place match after a historic run.
It is also worth noting women athletes have won five out of the last nine medals (seven out of the last 13, extending back to 2012) for India at the Olympics Games.
While there were close misses and disappointments from some of the medal favourites, despite all the challenges in a pandemic-affected Games, India registered their best ever performance making Tokyo 2020 an Olympics to remember.