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Athletics was introduced to India during the British Raj period and an Anglo-Indian also became the first gold medalist for the nation in the Olympics.
The Athletics Federation of India was formed in 1946 with a view of sending its athletes to major global events after the nation gained independence from the British rulers in 1947. The organization is affiliated with both the World Athletics and Asian Athletics Association.
The Legacy of Athletics in India
India continued to send its athletes to the Olympics post-World War I but success started knocking on the Indian doors after the nation hosted the inaugural Asian Games in 1951, and the infrastructure in the nation considerably improved when they hosted the 1982 Asian Games and the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Historical roots and evolution
At the 1951 Asian Games, Lavy Pinto, among other athletes, helped India bag 10 gold medals at the continental event with five other gold medals in football, water polo, etc., helping the nation finish second on the medals tally behind Japan.
Iconic moments and athletes
Milkha Singh’s rise was documented in the 1958 Commonwealth Games, called the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, as the Punjab-born athlete became the first athlete from independent India to win a CWG Gold Medal.
In the 1960 Olympic Games, ‘The Flying Sikh’ was expected to win the first medal in athletics for independent India at the Olympics, and Milkha was leading the race after 250 metres, but hesitance and lack of awareness cost him a medal that could have gone down in the history books.
At the 1970 Asian Games, Kamaljit Sandhu became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the continental stage as she won the 400 metres race and later became the coach of the women’s sprint team at the 1982 Asian Games where Indian athletes won several medals under her tutelage.
Indian Athletes making Global strides
Indian athletes were never considered favorites as tall and lanky athletes from the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Europe, and other African nations always had a genetic advantage but access to better infrastructure and good coaching techniques has allowed Indian athletes to rise up and challenge athletes on the international level in the last couple of decades.
Profiles of top Indian athletes
Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, commonly known as PT Usha or The Golden Girl, had a glorious start to her career when she bagged the silver medal in 100m and 200m races at the 1982 Asian Games.
After breaking the national record back in 1981, PT Usha did it again in 1983 and was in fine stride heading into the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, but she had a horrendous Olympics debut as she fizzled out in both events and instead qualified for the final of the 400m hurdles event where she finished fourth missing out on an Olympics medal.
At the 2017 Asian Championships, Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal, introducing to the world to his abilities and followed it up with gold medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was the most-awaited event of Chopra’s life as he finished the 120-year wait for a gold medal in athletics at the Olympics for India.
He continues to move on strongly as he collected the gold medal at the 2023 World Championships, followed by another gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games proving to be the shining star of Indian athletics in the modern era.
The significance of Olympics for India
At the 1900 Summer Olympics, India saw its first-ever medal in athletics as Norman Pritchard, an Anglo-Indian, won silver medals in 200m race and 200m hurdles. Despite the huge success of PT Usha and Milkha at the continental level, India didn’t win another medal in athletics at the Olympics for 120 years.
At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Chopra broke the long-awaited medal drought by winning the gold medal in the javelin throw event, defeating the Czech Republic duo of Jakub Vadlejch and Vitezslav Vesely, who settled for the silver medal and the bronze medal, respectively.
India’s performance in major athletic events
After the huge success of the men’s athletics team at the 1951 Asian Games held in New Delhi, it was time for the women’s team to step up at the 1982 Asian Games held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.
PT Usha and Geeta Zutshi won two silver medals each, while MD Valsamma won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles event becoming the second Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Asian Games since Sandhu did it back in 1970.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games, India won only two gold medals, three silver medals, and seven bronze medals in athletics, which served as a wake-up call for the nation to invest more in athletics.
In women’s shot put, India won all three medals, with Krishna Poonia clinching the gold medal while Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil bagged silver and bronze, respectively.
The recently concluded Hangzhou Asian Games were a great spectacle for the athletics fans in India as the nation won six gold, 14 silver, and nine bronze medals at the continental megafest.
Future prospects and challenges
The number of silver medals won at the recently concluded Asian Games surely puts India in the hot seat to win even more gold medals at the next Asian Games and Olympics, which has been a sore part for Indian athletes in the history of the sport.
India bagged 29 medals, only 10 behind hosts and leaders China, who bagged 39 medals (19 gold, 11 silver, nine bronze), which certainly is a big boost for the athletes who will soon be seen competing against the American and European athletes in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Betting Tips for Athletics Buffs
In athletics, there are many disciplines with rules for disallowed attempts different for every event, making it tough for the bettor to understand the game and make their choice of favorites in several events.
Events like sprints, steeplechase, decathlon, and long walks are more unpredictable than events like javelin throw, long jumps, triple jumps, high jumps, discus throw, and shot put, which allows multiple attempts.
Decoding athlete form and records
Athletes like Chopra are tough to bet against due to their fiery form and superior records at the international level. At her peak, athletes like Anju Bobby George were tough to beat at the continental level but sometimes failed to turn up at world-level events, which is an important factor to remember while placing a bet.
While there have been several instances in athletics where the favorites experience upsets due to various reasons including the type of surface, weather conditions, and jurisdiction style employed at the games.
Tips for maximizing returns
For one to maximize their returns, several betting disciplines should be remembered and followed while betting on athletics because it is one of the toughest sports to multiply the cash flow.