The Indian sports history is equipped with numerous examples where Indians have proved their knack in various genres, and sports are not untouched of historic feats. Inspite of the British tyranny and dominant era, Indians showed their grit and unity through sports. On the 73rd independence, let's recall some of the most significant and unforgettable Indian victories that were bagged before the final independence call in 1947. So here we go...
Talking about the first Olympic Games in which India ever took part, was the 1900 Olympics. The 1900 Paris Olympics became memorable in the Indian sport's history with the astounding performance of Norman Gilbert Pritchard, a British-Indian athlete. He showed his athletic flair in five competitions and added his name in the Olympic medal tally in silver colours. By earning the maiden silver medals in 200m sprint and 200m hurdle events, Pritchard became the first Asian born athlete to win Olympic medals for the nation and hence, the quest for Olympics medals initiated in India.
We all know Bruce Lee and his combat stints. But, most of us are hardly familiar with the fact that the prominent wrestler of the British Indian Empire, Ghulam Mohammad Baksh, aka the Great Gama was his inspiration and he used to follow his exercise routines. Gama was the ultimate winner of the John Bull World Championships after a long and fierce wrestling bout held on September 1910 with Polish wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko. Gama is also remembered for his golden heart that had beaten for humanity over communism throughout his life span. During the partition phase of India and Pakistan, Gama saved his Hindu brothers from the attacks of the raged mob in Pakistan. He helped them to leave for India with tearful eyes and a sob of not going to meet again.
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Although cricket has been the most prominent and followed sport in India, yet the history of Indian sports before independence has something special for football lovers. The unforgettable victorious performance by the barefoot Bengali boys of Mohun Bagan in 1911. These Indian footballers defeated the well-equipped East Yorkshire Regiment team at the breathtaking final match barefoot. They emerged as the winner of the IFA Shield Tournament with an applaudable score of 2-1, becoming the first Indian football club to do so and were entitled as the "The Immortal Eleven". This was the time when Indians truly realised their power in unity through this event, and that; determination and perseverance are the real equipment required to win.
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After the historic win in 1911 at the soccer field, Indian athletes inherited the confidence from the Immortal Eleven to lead in other sports, and Phadeppa Dareppa Chaugule was amongst them. He was a part of the first Indian troop sent for the 1920 Antwerp Olympics who spotted the 19th position in the Olympic Marathon in 2:50:45.2s. With his supersonic performance, he became the first Indian ever to compete in the prestigious marathon. Phadeppa's efforts became a stalwart example for Indian athletes who were dreaming big and toiling hard. The local community entitled Phadeppa as the "Conqueror of the Wind". Phadeppa's efforts were posthumously honoured when a postal cover was released in 2003 to recall his historic performance.
In the era of the "Hockey Wizard" Major Dhyanchand, the Indian National Hockey Team attained much prominence for its consecutive gold victories in the Olympic Games of 1928, 1932 and 1936. The team continued with a 30-0 winning streak until 1960 and was also the first Non-European team to become a part of the International Hockey Federation. And that was the victory series since when hockey has been seen as the national sport of India (although the Indian Government has not declared it yet).
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When Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagrah was on the peak in the mid-90s, the prominent Calcutta Football League was declared in favour of the Royal Regiment in the first division. Whereas, East Bengal was not promoted to that rank. Out of agony, many East Bengal fans and officials went on for a protest march on the East Bengal field with flaming torches. These torches, known as "Mashals", gave an epic idea to the officials of making it the club's emblem. Even today, this Mashal is regarded as the club's emblem that reminds of the historic protest even in lack of democratic rights and constitutions, for the fair judgement in sports.
We all are well aware of the fact how much Indians like the game of cricket and the zest of following Test series is almost mandatory for all cricket yogis. India was introduced with this amazing game of bat and ball by European sailors in the 18th century. Few of our legendary players of the era such as Ranjit Singh and Duleep Singh have played in the British Empire phase. But, it was in 1932 on 25th June when India had its first Test match at the Lord's Ground and became the sixth country to attain the Test status. C.K. Naidu led the first Indian Test team. Although the team didn't lift the trophy, but it lifted the thought of making a name in the international cricket.
These are just a few examples that can define those brave moments when Indians realised their power and the urge of freedom was fed, after which the quest for freedom was geared up. You are also free to share such moments with us that you have in your memories of pre- independence.
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