On this day, 72 years back, the Indian hockey team grabbed its fourth consecutive gold but this medal was worth more than what that team had managed on their three previous occasions. The gold that India had clinched in the 1948 Olympics was their first the Indian tri-colour as against the Union flag that unfurled in the three previous times. And ironically, India had beaten Great Britain in the final in the United Kingdom.
India finished top of Group A and then edged past the Netherlands in the semis before beating their colonial rulers 4-0 in the summit clash in their own backyard at the iconic Wembley Stadium.
Owing to the partition, players like Niaz Khan, Shah Rukh Muhammad, Aziz Malik and Ali Shah Dara, who were part of the 1936 gold-medal side, opted to play for Pakistan. Hence, the core Indian team comprised, vice-captain KD Singh Babu, Leslie Claudius, Keshav Dutt, Randhir Singh Gentle and goalkeeper Ranganathan Francis. However, the true revelation for the historic 1948 team was Balbir Singh Sr, who eventually went on to become a legend of the sport.
“It was a matter of pride that we had beaten England,” Balbir Singh Sr. summed up years later. “It was thrilling. And now the world saluted our flag.”
The story of India's historic win was later told through the Bollywood movie ‘Gold’, starring Akshay Kumar.
Indian hockey team went on to win two more golds, in the next two Olympics - 1952 in Helsinki and 1956 in Melbourne. Overall, Independent India have won five golds one silver and two bronze.