The fire lit by Dhyan Chand is scorching

Cricket may be a religion in India, but hockey is the place where emotions run high. India was once a dominant force in world hockey, winning an Olympic gold medal in the sport eight times, a record, starting at the 1928 Games.

The country won six consecutive gold medals from 1928 in Amsterdam to the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne. The record remains high even today – of India’s total of 32 Olympic medals so far, hockey alone has contributed 11 – eight gold, one silver and two bronze.

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Dhyan Chand, the world hockey power superstar and flag bearer of the Indian contingent, refused to greet Adolf Hitler at the opening ceremony of the Berlin games in 1936. Such was India’s dominance in hockey. .

In 1976, at the Montreal Games, an artificial surface was laid out for the first time, easier to maintain than grass, where speed and fitness were more important than the skills for which Indians were known. The result was a brutal shock as India finished 7th. India won its last gold medal in 1980 in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, when many countries, led by the United States, boycotted the Games.

India finished fifth at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and the hockey gold rush quickly faded as the Indians gave way to the Europeans. Since then, it is a downhill road. The fire that hockey magician Dhyan Chand had lit began to flash.

For current generations of Indians, Dhyan Chand’s exploits and India’s hockey conquests were only part of the history books.

While all seemed to have been lost for Indian hockey, at the Tokyo Games the men’s and women’s hockey teams showed that India was not yet finished, that it was down but not out.

The women’s team that came last among 12 teams at the Rio 2016 Games made the mother of all returns in Tokyo. lonely goal.

With Gurjit’s lone goal and Savita Punia’s saves, Indian hockey took a giant leap of faith. The victory over Australia is billed as one of the best moments in Indian sporting history.

The men’s team who were humiliated 1-7 by a far superior Australia in the group stage refused to give up and beat Great Britain to advance to the semi-finals after 49 years. An incredible feat. Interestingly, a loss to Great Britain in 2008 prevented India from qualifying for the Olympics for the first time.

In a rare feat, this is the first time India’s men’s and women’s hockey teams have qualified for the semi-finals of the same Olympics. The incredible stories of Indian female hockey players, how they fought through thick and thin, from poverty to toxic childhood, their refusal to conform to the rules set by a patriarchal society, courage, determination and conviction, a conviction to win no matter what, is the stuff of legends.

Rani Rampal, Lalremsiami, Nikki Pradhan, Deep Grace Ekka, to name a few, will return home with a heroic welcome and inspire hundreds of girls to take the baton.

The two hockey teams have succeeded in putting hockey back at the center of the collective Indian mentality.

The fire lit by Dhyan Chand shines again as the nation lives a dream with tears of joy and deafening roars from Chak De!

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