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Giant strides

A nation of one billion may not have produced an individual Olympic champion as yet, but India has produced many great sporting icons since Independence. Test your India Quotient

india Updated: Aug 12, 2007 17:37 IST

Hindustan Times

A nation of one billion may not have produced an individual Olympic champion as yet... but here is a list of our 60 greatest sporting icons since Independence:

Track and field

Milkha Singh: bettered the then Olympic 400m record at the 1960 Rome Olympics but fell short of a medal by just 0.01 seconds.

GS Randhawa: national champion in javelin, high jump, long jump, decathlon and hurdles; finished fifth in the 110m hurdles at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

PT Usha: the Payyoli Express lost out on a bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by one hundredth of a second; won four golds and a silver at the 1986 Asiad, still a continental record.

TC Yohannan: the long jumper's leap of 8.07m at the 1974 Tehran Asian Games was a continental record, and an Indian record for 30 years, till bettered by Amritpal Singh in 2004.

Anju Bobby George: did the unexpected by winning a long jump bronze at the 2003 Paris World Championships with a leap of 6.70; won silver at the World Athletics Finals.


Viswanathan Anand: became the first Indian Grandmaster in 1988; first Indian to win both the world chess and rapidfire chess titles; one of only four players to reach 2800 ELO points; became world No 1 in April 2007.


Ramanathan Krishnan: first Asian ever to win junior Wimbledon in 1954; made it to the men’s Wimbledon semifinals in 1960 & ’61; helped India reach the 1966 Davis Cup final.

Ramesh Krishnan: won back-to-back junior French Open and Wimbledon titles in 1979; reached US Open quarters in 1981 & ’87.

Leander Paes: won junior Wimbledon and US Open; won independent India’s second individual Olympic medal, a bronze at Atlanta in 1996; won Wimbledon doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi in 1999.

Mahesh Bhupathi: first Indian to win a Grand Slam (1997 French Open mixed doubles with Rika Hiraki of Japan); winner of 10 Grand Slams in doubles and mixed doubles.

Vijay Amritraj: reached last 8 at Wimbledon and the US Open, winning 16 titles in all.

Sania Mirza: first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open and fourth round of the
US Open, both in 2005.


Mihir Sen:

first ever in the world to cross the seven seas; first Indian to cross the English Channel, in 1958.

Bula Choudhury:

first woman to conquer the seven seas in 2004 and the first Asian woman to cross the English Channel twice.

Khazan Singh:

won silver in 200m butterfly at the 1986 Seoul Asiad, only Indian to ever win a continental medal in the sport.


Dhyan Chand: synonymous with fitness, skill and sporting excellence; won three Olympic golds (1928, '32 and '36).

Roop Singh: Dhyan Chand's brother, won Olympic golds in 1932 and 1936.

Balbir Singh Sr: One of the best ever strikers, won three Olympic golds (1948, '52 and '56).

Ajitpal Singh: thrice-Olympian (1968, '72 and '76) and captain of 1975 World Cup winning side.

Dhanraj Pillay: only Indian to play in 4 Olympics, 4 World Cups, 4 Asian Games and 4 Asia Cups, winning gold at the 1998 Asian Games and 2003 Asia Cup.


Chuni Goswami: won the 1962 Asian Games gold and runner-up at the 1964 Asia Cup.

PK Banerjee: scored the opener for India in the 1962 Asian Games final; captain at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Sahu Mewalal is the only other Indian to score a goal in the Asian Games.

Bhaichung Bhutia: the most recognisable Indian footballer, first Indian to play professionally in England (for FC Bury).

Jarnail Singh: scored the winner for the 1962 Asiad gold winning team; led the Asian All-Stars team in 1966.

Formula one

N Karthikeyan: first Indian Formula One racer; pioneer in motorsports in the country.


CK Nayudu:

first Indian Test captain; led the side against England in 1932.

Vijay Merchant:

Played just 10 Tests over 20 years but has a first-class average of 71.64, second only to Don Bradman.

Vijay Hazare:

led India to its first-ever Test win against England, at Chennai in 1952.

Vinoo Mankad:

holds the world record first-wicket stand in Tests with Pankaj Roy (413 runs against New Zealand in 1956); only player to bat at all 11 positions.

Anil Kumble:

India's highest wicket-taker in Tests; only second bowler in Tests to take all ten wickets in an innings (against Pakistan at Delhi, 1999).

Rahul Dravid:

has maximum double tons for India in Tests (5).

BS Chandrashekhar:

guided India to their first-ever Test victory in England; took 242 wickets in 58 Tests between 1964 & 1979.

BS Bedi:

outspoken captain; has 1650 first-class wickets and 266 Test wickets.

Kapil Dev:

captain of the 1983 World Cup-winning side; first-ever genuine Indian fast bowler and all-rounder; scored 175* against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup.

Sunil Gavaskar:

first batsman to score 10,000 Test runs; the original Indian 'Wall'; successful commentator.

Sachin Tendulkar:

youngest Indian to make international debut at 16; has scored most centuries in both Tests and ODIs (37 and 41 respectively); has over 25,000 international runs.

Sourav Ganguly:

scored a century on debut at Lord's; one of the best-ever and India's most-successful captain.

Mithali Raj:

first woman cricketer to score a double century in Tests (214 against England at Taunton in 2002).


Karnam Malleswari: India's lone woman individual Olympic medallist, winning bronze at Sydney in 2000.


Hawa Singh: won two back-to-back golds in Asian Games, (1966 and 1970); awarded the Arjuna in 1966 and the Dronacharya in 1999.

Dingko Singh: won lightweight boxing gold at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games; vanished after the 2002 Busan Asiad.

Gurcharan Singh: won bronze at the 1988 Asiad and reached the quarterfinals of the Sydney Olympics (2000).

MC Mary Kom: undisputed world champion; has won two world titles and one silver; Arjuna awardee.


Prakash Padukone: became the world No 1 in 1980, winning the Swedish Open, Danish Open and the All-England Open titles;
nine-time national champion; only shuttler to win both junior and senior national titles in the same year.

Pullela Gopichand: reached a career-high of world No 6 in 2000; became only the second Indian to win the All-England Open in 2001.


Limba Ram: first Indian archer to success on world stage; won gold with a world record score at the 1992 Asian championships; missed bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by 1 point.

Jayanta Talukdar: first Indian archer to become world No 1 (2006). With Dola Banerjee (World Cup gold in 2007) put Indian archery on the world map.

Cue Sports

Wilson Jones:

became the first individual world champion of independent India, winning the amateur billiards crown in 1958 and 1962.

Geet Sethi:

has won eight world titles — five professional and three IBSF; featured in the Guinness Book for becoming the first amateur to compile a maximum of 147 breaks in snooker; holds the record for the highest break, 1276, in billiards, set in 1992.

Pankaj Advani:

only second cueist in the world to win the IBSF World Championship in both billiards and snooker; won the national, Asian and world billiards crown in 2005; scored a double by winning both the points and time format at the World Championship in Malta.

Michael Ferreira:

won the world billiards crown in 1977 and 1978.


KD Jadhav: independent India's first individual Olympic medallist, winning bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Games.


Jimmy George: became the first Indian spiker to play for a professional club in Europe; counted as one of the world's 10 best players ever; died in a car accident in Italy in 1987.


Karni Singh: won silver at the 1962 Cairo World championships; 17 times national trap and skeet champion; first shooter to get the Arjuna in 1961.

Abhinav Bindra: first Indian shooter to win a World Championship gold (Zagreb in 2006) in 10m rifle; awarded the Khel Ratna in 2002.

RVS Rathore: won India's first-ever individual Olympic silver in double trap at Athens in 2004; won gold at the Cairo World Cup in 2006; awarded the Arjuna in 2004 and the Khel Ratna in 2005.

Manavjit Sandhu: won trap gold at the 2006 World Championships in Zagreb; won gold at the Asian Clay Pigeon Championships at Singapore in 2006.

Jaspal Rana: won centrefire pistol gold at the 1994 Milan World Shooting Championships (junior) with a world record score; won gold at the Hiroshima Asian Games the same year; won a hat-trick of gold at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.


Jeev Milkha Singh: first Indian to qualify for the European Tour; first to play in the US Open; first Indian to win an event in Europe (Volvo Masters in Spain in 2006), collecting the biggest cheque ever by an Indian; first Indian golfer to reach top-50 in the world.

Arjun Atwal: first Indian to win an event on the European Tour (2002 Singapore Masters); first Indian to get a full card for the USPGA in 2004.

First Published: Aug 12, 2007 00:36 IST