India at the Olympics: The lost years before the 21st century | Olympics

    Indian hockey’s decline was halted quite spectacularly with a gold at the 1980 Olympics. However, this was only a brief spark instead of a sign of resurgence, and the decline continued steadily after the Moscow Games. The gold in 1980 remains the last that India has won in hockey while the men’s team would end the dry run only in 2021 in Tokyo. Before that though, multiple generations of the Indian hockey team failed to get out of the group stage, a phase of the tournament that the dominant teams of the past often reduced to nothing more than a formality. With the hockey stars fading, India’s Olympic medals also dried up. This led to the country winning just one medal in the 20th century after 1980. But that doesn’t mean that the Games were entirely uneventful for India. We have already looked at how India fared before independence and in the early post-British rule era. Here we recall the country’s performances after the end of the reign of hockey:

    Los Angeles 1984 – PT Usha misses bronze by milliseconds

    India’s dry run after 1980 was ended by Leander Paes as he became the first, and thus far only, tennis player from the country to win an Olympic medal. (Getty Images)

    India sent a team of 48 athletes to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. It began a barren run for the men’s hockey team, with their years of glory well behind them, that would last more than four decades. However, there were a couple of significant developments in women’s athletics; PT Usha missed out on the women’s 400m bronze by one-hundredth of a second. Shiny Abraham became the first Indian woman to reach the semi-finals of an Olympic event, recording a personal best of 2:04.69 seconds in women’s 800m. Usha, Abraham, MD Valsamma and Vandana Rao then made it to the finals of the women’s 4x400m relay. They finished last among the seven teams in the final but set an Asian record of 3:32.49 seconds.

    Seoul 1988 – No medals in the pocket

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    At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, India was represented by 46 athletes. There were no medals for the country with the men’s hockey team failing to make it past the group stage once again and finishing seventh. A total of 39 men and seven women were part of the Indian contingent and none made it to the semi-finals of their respective events.

    Barcelona 1992 – Third consecutive medal-less Games

    The Barcelona Games marked the third consecutive time that the Indian contingent returned empty-handed from an Olympics. The men’s hockey team were dumped out in the group stage again. Leander Paes made his Olympic debut. While he couldn’t go past the first round in men’s singles, Paes made it to the quarter-finals of men’s doubles with Ramesh Krishnan.

    Atlanta 1996 – The dry run ends at last

    India’s medal drought finally ended at the 1996 Olympics with Leander Paes becoming the first Indian tennis player to win bronze at the Games. He was the first Indian in 44 years to win an individual gold and it was the first medal for the country since the men’s hockey team’s gold in 1980. Paes lost in the semi-finals to eventual gold medal winner Andre Agassi and faced Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni in the bronze medal match. He won 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

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