August 12 holds a strong place in India’s sporting history and it can be put to two moments etched decades and millenium apart. If one turns the clock back 70 years, it is then on this day that India hockey team won their first gold medal in Olympic history and it came as a newly independent country to give further reason to be proud. The fact that it came against Great Britain, at Wembley Stadium in London, only made it significantly special for everyone. A 4-0 win and couple of firsts – ringing of the national anthem and the tricolour going up – had reason to celebrate for the 11 men who took the field and millions of people back home. Balbir Singh scored two goals in the final with Tarlochan Singh and Pat Jensen also ringing the board. Balbir went on to win two more Olympic medals – in 1952 and 1956 – for India.
“In Delhi, President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru came to see a match that had been arranged at the National Stadium…The press claimed that 70,000 people watched the match that day…The enthusiastic spectators hoisted us on their shoulders, patted us and touched us, as if they were paying a tribute to heroes returning home from a fierce battle,” is how Balbir captured the mood in his autobiography ‘The Golden Hat-Trick – My Hockey Days’.
Fast forward 64 years and India have another shining moment in the quadrannual event. Incidentally, the city remained the same – London – but the sport had changed. Taking the mat on August 12, 2012, Sushil Kumar won the silver medal in 66kg freestyle wrestling after being outclassed by Japan’s Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu 3-1. However, despite settling for the silver medal, Sushil had created history in becoming first Indian to win a medal at consecutive Olympic medals having won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Sushil recalled the moment in an Instagram post on Sunday, he wrote, “The most memorable day of my life.. 12 August 2012 London Olympics silver medal 🥈.. Now just need your blessings and prayers to turn this silver into Gold 🙏🏻 And as I say,”There is no shortcut to the Olympic medal- Hardwork is the only key “.