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Indian field hockey gold medalist Dhyan Chand dies

On December 3, 1979, the Olympic gold medal-winning field hockey player Dhyan Chand dies in Delhi, India. Born Dhyan Singh in August 1905, he got his more well-known last name when his first coach predicted his talent would allow him to shine like a chand, or moon. True to the coach’s prediction, Chand became famous in pre-partition India, and throughout the world, for his prowess on the hockey field. His legendary ball control and stick handling skills were immortalized in a statue erected in Vienna, which depicts Chand as a man with four arms and four sticks.

Chand joined the Indian army in 1922 and gained international attention when he toured New Zealand with the army team in 1926. As a center forward, Chand led a dominant Indian team to three Olympic Games, including Amsterdam (1928), Los Angeles (1932) and Berlin (1936). He scored two goals in India’s 3-0 win over the Netherlands in the finals of the 1928 Olympics; in 1932, when India whipped the U.S. team 24-1, Chand scored eight times. During the Berlin Olympics, rough play by the German team in the final knocked out one of Chand’s teeth. After receiving first aid, he returned to the field, eventually netting an impressive six goals in India’s 8-1 victory.

Chand retired from international hockey in 1948, after scoring a career total of more than 400 goals. In 1956, he retired from the army with the rank of major. That same year, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest honor in India, given to reward distinguished service of a high order to the nation in any field. Chand’s son, Ashok Kumar Singh, would play hockey as well, scoring the game-winning goal in India’s 1975 World Cup win. Despite his glory as a player, Chand’s later coaching career was largely unsuccessful, and he was perennially short of money by the time he died, after a battle with liver cancer, in 1979.

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