Former hockey greats end four-decade medal drought with 5-4 win over Germany to secure bronze at the Tokyo Games.
India are the most successful nation in men’s Olympic hockey with eight titles but have not taken gold since Moscow 1980, which turned out to be their last medal of any colour for 41 years.
“It’s a dream come true,” Simranjeet said. “We have made 1.3 billion Indians proud by finishing on the podium.”
The goal-rich match was not an easy one for the eight-time Olympic champions. Germany took an early lead through a second-minute goal by Timur Oruz, and posed a threat to India in the first quarter.
After Simranjeet equalised with a backhand shot for India, Germany kept their cool, scoring two goals to take a 3-1 lead in the second quarter.
But India pulled level late in that quarter thanks to goals by Hardik Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, making it 3-3 at the halftime break.
“We’re very angry at ourselves that we got India back into the game,” Germany’s head coach Kais al Saadi said.
“They’re a great team. You can’t give away opportunities like that to a fantastic team like that.”
India then took a 5-3 lead after Rupinder Pal Singh notched in a penalty stroke and Simranjeet scored the winning goal of the match not long into the second half.
Germany came back a goal and tried to force the equaliser, even taking out its goalkeeper to bring in an extra field player late in the game.
But the Germans could not get another ball past India goalie Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran, who was a star of the match with nine saves.
The defeat leaves the German men without a hockey medal for the first time since 2000, having taken bronze in 2004 and 2016, and gold in 2008 and 2012.
The bronze marked India’s first Olympic hockey medal since they last claimed the top prize at the 1980 Moscow Games, when none of the players on the current squad were born yet.
Belgium, silver medallists five years ago in Rio, take on Australia for gold later on Thursday.
In women’s hockey, India will battle Britain for bronze on Friday.