New Delhi: August 29 marks the birth anniversary of India’s hockey wizard, Major Dhyan Chand. A phenomenal athlete, Dhyan Chand put India on the map back when the world continued to be plagued by wars and political bloodshed. He would have been 112 years old.
In honour of Dhyan Chand, August 29 is also celebrated as National Sports Day, when various sporting honours are bestowed upon athletes from India. Known for his sublime goal-scoring laurels and extraordinary ball control, Dhyan Chand is regarded as the greatest field hockey player of all time.
More so for earning three gold medals for India during the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics, a feat that made India a force to reckon with in hockey. Having scored more than 400 goals during his international career, Dhyan Chand would go on to play till 1948, at which time he was 42.
He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1956 by the Indian government for his splendid contribution to Indian hockey and continues to be in the fray for being conferred the Bharat Ratna.
Greatness was something Dhyan Chand was destined for. Initially his focus laying more on wrestling, it wasn’t until the age of 14 that Dhyan Chand took up hockey and only on his maiden international tour of New Zealand in 1926, scored 10 goals out of 20 in one match.
A year later, he would score 36 of 72 Indian goals in 10 matches at the London Folkestone Festival. In the final of the 1928 Olympics, Dhyan Chand netted two of the three Indian goals in the final against the Netherlands. He had also topped the chart with 14 goals.
At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Dhyan Chand scored 12 goals in two matches as India won gold again. A third straight Hockey title at the Games was captured when he took the field barefoot in the second half of the final against Germany and helped India win 8-1.
India’s last hockey gold before Independence was incidentally the same Games where a certain Jesse Owens from America won four Olympic gold medals, a feat unparalleled back in the day.