1928 - 2018

A Cradle for Glory: Sporting Traditions in the Railways

Heritage Directorate, Indian Railways

The sportsmen and sportswomen of Indian railways who have put India's name on the world map.  

The contribution of the Indian Railways to Indian sports is immense. Infact, the contribution is larger than any other state or organisation in the country.

Since 1948, when Leslie Claudius went on to represent India at the Olympics' hockey, the railways have played an important role in international sports. And while in the men's arena, the Railways have faced stiff competition from the Services and other organisations, in the women's ranks, the Indian Railways stand alone.

Many notable hockey players and captains since early years have been from the Railways. There was Kishan Lal, captain of the team that went to London Olympics in 1948. Another important player was Mohinder Lal,who was responsible for the winning goal that lead to India winning gold at the Olympics in 1964; and Prithipal Singh and Harbinder Singh of the same team; all of these players were from the railways.

Perhaps our country's most successful international sportsperson in recent years has been railway man Sushil Kumar. His exploits in the 66 kg weight category in Freestyle wrestling are a revelation in a country where successful international sportspersons are few and numbered.

The 31-year old is the only Indian individual double medalist at the Olympics, having won the bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the silver at the last Olympics at London.

At the Asian and Commonwealth levels, Sushil has excelled, winning a number of golds, including one at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games at Glasgow.

In Athletics, railway women have won the National title consecutively 42 times and likely to continue in the foreseeable future.

Among female athletes, the best known is Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, better remembered as P T Usha. Certainly the “Queen of Track and Field” in India and nicknamed the “Payyoli Express” she has come the closest to winning an Athletics medal at the Olympics for an Indian woman.



She finished a heart-breaking 5th at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 in the 400 meters hurdles. After the LA Olympics, P.T Usha bounced back with a vengeance in the Asian Games where she won 4 golds and a silver in 1986.

Dola Banerjee is perhaps the best female archer the country has produced. She was the first woman to be awarded the Arjuna Award in her discipline.

Krisha Poonia, a top flight national and international discuss thrower, lead India to a clean sweep in the women's discus at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

It is evident that the exploits of Railway sports persons go on and on, with no end in sight in the foreseeable future.

JL Singh
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