Top 10 Indian Olympians of All Time

Top 10 Indian Olympians of All Time

By now every Indian is rejoicing on the Gold Medal win of Neeraj Chopra at the 2020 Olympics. 

It has been 120 years since India has been participating in the Olympics and so far we have won 35 medals in 24 Olympics. 

So, from a 1 member team at the 1900 Paris Olympics to a 127 member team today, we have come a long way. 

Let’s take a look at our Best Olympians who created history for the country at the global stage:

Norman Pritchard – Sprint & Hurdle

Norman Pritchard - Sprint & Hurdle

Let’s start from the start! 

India started its Olympic journey with a Calcutta born British national, ‘Norman Pritchard’ from Colonial India.

There is a certain anomaly in the claiming of Norman’s medals as both India and Great Britain stakes claim. 

While Britain’s record lists Norman representing the country, the International Olympics Committee considers him to be an Indian representative. 

At that time, athletes in the Olympics played for their respective clubs and not for their nation. 

Therefore, Pritchard who was from Bengal, represented the Bengal Presidency Athletics and thus became the first Indian Olympian. 

Technically Norman Pritchard, an actor and athlete, was the first person to win 2 silver medals for India.

He came second to Walter Tewksbury in the 200 meters sprint and Alvin Kraenzlein in 200 meters hurdles. 

Both the winners were US Nationals. 

He participated in 5 athletics events – 60, 100, 110, 200m sprint, and 200m hurdles. 

He was 25 when we won the 2 medals and became the ‘First Asian Born Athlete’ to win an Olympics Medal. 

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Dhyan Chand – Hockey

Dhyan Chand - Hockey

Nicknamed ‘The Wizard’ or ‘The Magician’, this Allahabad born Rajput came from a family of hockey players.

Dhyan Chand won 3 gold medals as part of the 1928, 1932, and 1936 Indian hockey team. 

His mastery in field hockey can be seen in the way he played, scoring 14 goals in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. 

3 of these were a hat-trick against Netherlands in the final. 

Since then, India dominated field hockey with a magical run till 1964. India’s highest sports honor is named after Dhyan Chand.

K. D. Jadhav – Wrestling

K. D. Jadhav - Wrestling

This 27 year-old forgotten hero is the most successful individual medal winner of India after Norman Pritchard. 

Nicknamed “The Pocket Dynamo”, Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was a wrestler from a little known Maharastrian village Goleshwar won the bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. 

He came from a family of wrestlers, his father Dadasaheb Jadhav being a renowned wrestler. 

Jadhav wasn’t selected in the formal Olympics team of India and only made it after the Maharaja of Patiala convinced authorities to hold a bout for his selection. 

The ace wrestler had a tragic end to his Olympics career after a knee injury put a dent to his prospects. 

He continued to play at police games as he had become a sub inspector in  Maharashtra police.

Karnam Malleshwari – Weightlifting

Karnam Malleshwari - Weightlifting

In 1995, a 20 year old weightlifter stunned the world by becoming the first woman Olympics medalist at the Olympics. 

Karnam Malleshwari from Andhra Pradesh won bronze at the 1995 Olympics in the 69kg weightlifting category. 

She held her position winning a second bronze medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 5 years later. 

She was the first Indian woman holding 2 Olympic medals, before P.V. Sindhu 

She comes from a family of weightlifters with all her sisters in the profession. 

The Dhyan Chand award winner and Padma Shri winner started her journey at the age of 12 and has won a silver at World Championship.

Abhinav Bindra – Shooting

Abhinav Bindra - Shooting

26-year-old Abhinav Bindra brought India its first individual gold medal at the 10m Air Rifle Shooting event of the Beijing Olympics back in 2008. 

This Dehradun born, Doon school educated and BBA graduate had an illustrious shooting career that spanned 22 years and 150 medals.

He received extensive coaching in India and Germany to reach this stage. 

Bindra is a Padma Bhushan winner and a member of IOCC athletics committee.

Neeraj Chopra – Javelin

Neeraj Chopra - Javelin

From one gold medal winner to another!

Let’s talk about the newest kid in the block, Neeraj Chopra.

The 23 year old Javelin thrower from Panipat who just won the first athletics gold medal of India with a 87.58 meter throw. 

Neeraj is a Subedar with 4 Rajputana Rifles in The Indian Army.

He entered the finals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in pole position, way ahead of the reigning world champion Jan Železný. 

Neeraj shattered his own record of 88.07m in the process. 

His coach Uwe Hohn is the only javelin thrower in the world with a 100m throw with the personal best being 104.80m. 

Hohn has been a pioneer in the field, he changed the javelin throwing technique and ushered in the modern javelin era in 1986. 

Neeraj has been training with this German National stalwart since 2016.

He is the second Indian to win a gold medal at the Olympics, after shooter Bindra. 

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore – Shooting

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore - Shooting

In 2004, 34 year old Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore created history.

He became the first Indian to win a silver medal in an individual event at the Olympics. 

This Rajput from Jaisalmer won the silver in men’s double trap shooting in the 2004 Athens Olympics. 

Coming from an army family and being an army man, he excelled at double trap shooting winning 25 international medals.

The medals include 3 gold and 1 silver at the Commonwealth Games, 1 silver and 1 bronze in the Asian Games.

P. V. Sindhu – Badminton

P. V. Sindhu - Badminton

In 2016, 21 year old P.V. Sindhu created history by becoming the first Indian woman to win an individual silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

She came second to Spain’s Carolina Marin in her Olympics debut. 

Soon after this, she became the World No.2 Badminton Player. 

This year she repeated the success with a bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by  defeating China’s Hi Bingjiao in straight sets of 21-13, 21-15. 

Currently, this 26 year old from Hyderabad holds 7th rank in the world with 15 titles with 349 wins and 149 losses. 

She is the only Indian woman with a silver and a bronze medal. She is also the reigning world badminton champion.

Mirabai Chanu – Weightlifting

Mirabai Chanu - Weightlifting

This 26 year old Manipuri lady created history at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by winning a medal for the country on the first day of the Olympics. 

Chanu became the first silver medalist woman weightlifter of India. 

She lifted 202 kg and completed 87 snatch with 116 clean jerks to bag the silver, ending the 21 year drought in Indian weightlifting. 

With this India went past Karnam Malleshwari bronze medal win at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. 

Chanu won the world championship in 2017 and has been a Commonwealth Gold medalist.

She is the reigning Asian Championship bronze medalist in the 49kg weightlifting category. 

Sushil Kumar – Wrestling

Sushil Kumar - Wrestling

Sushil Kumar, a Wrestler is the first Indian with 2 Olympic medals. 

This Delhi based wrestler started by winning a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of 25. 

In 2012 London Olympics, he was the flag bearer where he repeated the stint with a silver medal in 66kg wrestling. 

He had a swift bronze medal win in 2008 as he won 3 successive bouts in 70 mins. 

The 2012 Gold Medal match proved to be tougher as he was battling severe body aches and lost the match to Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu. 

So, there you go, the most illustrious Indian Olympians who made the Indian dream possible for generations to come. 

Which of these do you look up to for inspiration?

Also Read – 10 International games with origins in India


Written by Pratiti Nath

A heritage and travel enthusiast with a penchant for sustainable living and travel, Pratiti writes on key issues governing health, environment, travel and culture. A microbiologist by vocation and a writer/editor by profession Pratiti brings science and innovation in her pursuits of life. When not traveling she can be found addressing key issues on her blog at

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