However, some sports have managed to overcome the daunting odds of achieving exceptional success at the international level thanks to the dedication, hard work and attitude of Indian athletes.
Let’s take a look at some of these sports.
Hockey is the most successful discipline for India in the Olympic Games. In 1928 the team won its first Olympic gold medal and by 1960 the Indian men’s team remained undefeated at the Olympics, winning six consecutive gold medals. The team had a 30–0 winning streak during this period, from their first game in 1928 to the 1960 gold medal final, which they lost.
India also won the World Cup in 1975. India’s ice hockey team is the most successful team ever at the Olympic Games, winning a total of eight gold medals – in 1928, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1964 and 1980. India also has the best overall performance in the Olympics with 83 wins from 134 games played Story. They have also scored more goals in the Olympics than any other team. They are also the only team to have won the Olympics without conceding a single goal, having done so in 1928 and 1956.
The Men in Blues are also among the most successful teams in Asia. They have won the Asian Games three times – in 1966, 1998 and 2014.
India has won the Asian Cup in 2003, 2007 and 2017. India have won 43 of 56 Asian Cup matches and hold the record for most wins and highest win rate in the competition. They are also the most successful team in the Asian Champions Trophy, having won the competition three times – in 2011, 2016 and 2018. In total, India has won 27 official international titles.
India is known for having an intense rivalry with Pakistan with whom it has played in the finals of major tournaments such as the Olympics, World Cup, Asian Games and Asian Cup. India also has a unique record of beating Pakistan in the finals of all these tournaments.
Werstling is an ancient sport with a history stretching back thousands of years and was popular in India before the Mahabharat era.
It is one of the most successful sports for India in all major international events, not just the CWG.
Sushil Kumar (Gold, 2010)
September 12, 2010 will forever go down in Indian wrestling history. That day, Sushil Kumar became the first Indian to win gold at a world championship. In the semifinals he narrowly won 4:3 against Jabrayil Hasanov from Azerbaijan.
That helped him arrange a summit fight against local favorite Alan Gogaev of Russia. Kumar quickly picked up two points and won the first round 2-1, while the Indian grappler defended well enough in the second round to take the 66kg category title 3-1.
Bajrang Punia (1 Silver & 2 Bronze)
The Tokyo bronze medalist is the only Indian to have won multiple medals at the World Wrestling Championships.
He won his first medal in 2013 when he defeated Enkhsaikhany Nyam-Ochir of Mongolia in the bronze medal playoff game.
In 2018 he reached the final and competed against the Japanese Takuto Otoguro. He started on the backfoot as his opponent racked up five straight points in a very short time. He came on strong and at one point the deficit was only one. However, Otoguro kept attacking Punia’s leg and the Indian had no answer. He lost the match 16-9.
In 2019 he won his third World Championships medal when he narrowly defeated Tulga Tumur Ochir 8-7.
Bishambar Singh (Silver, 1967)
When Bishambar Singh won silver at the World Championships, it was only India’s second medal at the prestigious event, following Udey Chand’s bronze in 1961.
He entered the tournament in fine form, having won gold at the Commonwealth Games and bronze at the Asian Games last year. He had little trouble reaching the final of the World Championships in the 57 kg weight category, but faced Russian legend Ali Aliev in the fight for the gold medal.
Aliev proved too strong for him and he had to settle for silver.
Amit Kumar Dahiya (Silver, 2013)
Amit Kumar Dahiya was the favorite for gold in the 55kg category.
Qualifying for the London Olympics at just 18, he was dubbed Indian wrestling’s wannabe flag bearer after the Sushil Kumar era. In the first round he prevailed 10:2 against Yasuhiro Inaba from Japan. He continued his dominance in the following rounds and reached the final by beating Turkey’s Sezar Akgul 8-0 in the semifinals.
In the final, he faced Iran’s Rahimi Hassan but lost a hard-fought fight by a score of 2-1.
Deepak Punia (Silver, 2019)
Deepak Punia started on shaky ground in the first round against Adilet Davlumbayev of Kazakhstan.
The Kazakh raced to a 5-0 win but the Indian showed his composure, coming back from behind to win the bout 8-6. He gained strength in competition, winning over Colombian Carlos Arturo Mendez and Swiss wrestler Stefan Reichmuth. Although he won the semifinal match against Reichmuth, he had his prize.
After the match, he had a limp with his left foot and a swollen right eye. He failed to recover in time for the finals and was forced to withdraw from the gold medal fight.
Here are all the bronze medalists from India at the Wrestling World Championship:
2019 Ravi Kumar Dahiya Men’s SS 57kg
2019 Rahul Aware Men’s SS 61kg
2019 Vinesh Phogat Women SS 53kg
2015 Narsingh Pancham Yadav Men FS 74kg
2018 Pooja Dhanda Women FS 57kg
2013 Sandeep Tulsi Yadav Men GR 66 Kg
2013 Bajrang Punia Men’s FS 60kg
2012 Geeta Phoga Women FS 55kg
2012 Babita Kumari Women FS 51kg
2009 Ramesh Kumar Men’s SS 74kg
2006 Alka Tomar Women FS 59kg
1961 Udey Chand Men’s FS 67kg
Indian boxing enjoys a rich heritage at the Women’s World Boxing Championships thanks to Mary Kom who has won six gold medals at the event.
Mary Kom – the most successful boxer at the World Women’s Boxing Championships – was also the first Indian boxer to win a medal at the global event with silver in the light flyweight category (48 kg) at the inaugural edition.
Besides Mary Kom, the Indian women Lekha KC, Jenny RL, Laishram Sarita Devi and Nikhat Zareen were world champions in their respective categories.
With 10 gold, 8 silver and 21 bronze medals, India is the fourth most successful nation in women’s boxing championships after Russia, China and Turkey.
The first Indian male boxer to win a world championship medal was Vijender Singh, who won the middleweight bronze at the 2009 world championships.
To date, no male Indian boxer has won gold at the World Championships, with the best effort being Amit Panghal’s silver at flyweight (52 kg) at the 2019 edition.
Shooting is a major Olympic sport in India. Of India’s 35 Olympic medals, four are from shooting, including a gold medal by Abhinav Bindra at the 2008 Olympics.
Olympic Games Medalists: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Vijay Kumar
Neeraj Chopra: The Indian Army Subedar made history by becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in athletics, also a gold medal.
The 24-year-old added another feather to his cap when he won the silver medal at the 2022 World Athletics Championships and made history for India by becoming only the second Indian to win a medal at the prestigious event.
Anju Bobby George: The first Indian athlete to win a medal at World Athletics Championships was Anju Bobby George. At the 2003 World Championships in Paris, the long jump ace jumped a distance of 6.70 m and secured India the bronze medal.
Karnam Malleswari won a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, making her the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. In 1992 she competed in the Asian Championships in Thailand and finished second and won three silver medals. She also won three bronze medals at the World Championships.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu won the gold medal in the women’s 48 kg category, while Mirabai Chanu won silver in the same event. In the men’s 56 kg category, Sukhen Dey won gold and Ganesh Mali won bronze and Sathish Sivalingam won the gold medal in the 77 kg category with 149 kg snatch and 179 kg clean and jerk lift, totaling 328 kg. His snatch lift of 149 kg set a new game record. Affin Varghese won the gold medal in the 57 kg category with 114 kg snatch and 130 kg clean and jerk lift, totaling 298 kg. His snatch lift of 139 kg set a new state record in the junior category.