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The Flying Sikh: A throwback to the Glorious life of Legendary Milkha Singh

Legendary Indian athlete and an inspiration for many across the globe, Milkha Singh, famously known as “The Flying Sikh” succumbed to Covid-19 complications. He was battling with the virus for a month. His wife, Nirmal Kaur, a former volleyball captain, also died a few days earlier at a private hospital, due to Covid-19. She was 85 at the time of her death.

Many prominent personalities mourned Milkha Singh’s death as soon as the news broke out.

Prime Minister Modi took to Twitter to share his condolences and wrote :

“In the passing away of Shri Milkha Singh Ji, we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation’s imagination and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians. His inspiring personality endeared him to millions. Anguished by his passing away. I had spoken to Shri Milkha Singh Ji just a few days ago. Little did I know that it would be our last conversation. Several budding athletes will derive strength from his life journey. My condolences to his family and many admirers all over the world.”

President Ram Nath Kovind, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and many other prominent personalities, from across different domains expressed their feelings, with all of them remembering the sportsperson for his outstanding contribution to Indian Sports.

Milkha Singh’s life has been full of events that inspire the young generation across India and the world. Here, I shared some of the best moments of his public and personal life to celebrate the life of this legend and pay our respects to his great soul.

  • Born in Gobindpura, located in present-day Pakistan, Singh was the first Indian track and field athlete to win gold in the then British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958. His victory in the 440 yards (now 400m) at Cardiff in 1958 is still the only individual track medal an Indian has won in the Commonwealth Games.
  • As also shown in his biopic – Bhaag Milkha Bhaag(2013), a national holiday was announced by then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru to celebrate “Flying Sikh” when Milkha Singh requested the Prime Minister for a national holiday after he won gold in the 1958 Commonwealth games.
  • He started his Olympic journey at the 1956 Olympics in Australia but it was his second appearance at the Games in Rome in 1960, where the world took note of him and applauded the Indian sprinter.
  • In 1959, Milkha Singh was awarded the fourth-highest civilian award in the nation — Padma Shri, for his achievements. 
  • Milkha Singh was given his famous title “Flying Sikh” in 1960, by Pakistani general Ayub Khan, after Singh defeated his Pakistani competitor -Abdul Khaliq, in a bilateral event in Pakistan.
  • He then participated in Asian Games in Jakarta in 1962, where he won the 400m race and also bagged the gold medal in the 4x400m relay race with Daljit Singh, Jagdish Singh and Makhan Singh. 
  • One of the major personal disappointments for Milkha Singh was his performance in the Rome Olympics, where he came fourth in 400m finals of the 1960 Rome Olympics and missed out on the bronze medal by just 0.1 sec. But it was the Rome Olympics only where he set a new national record of 45.6 seconds, which could only be broken as late as 1998 by sprinter Paramjeet Singh.
  •  “That race in which I made a mistake, I can never forget or let go for the rest of my life. I have run 80 international races in my life and won 77, but the Rome Olympics, it was one race I will never forget until I die,” he told CNN in 2011.
  • Later in his life, Milkha Singh also became the Director of Sports in the Punjab Ministry of Education where he made significant contributions to bring India to the global level. Apart from this, he has also donated all his medals to the country which are preserved in a sports museum in Patiala.

Padma Shri Milkha Singh, the greatest Indian Runner has contributed immensely to Indian Society throughout his career. He shined like a star in a post-colonial world and brought pride and glory to his newly independent nation through sports. He inspires us to learn from our difficulties and how to channelise them in the right direction for the greater good of society. 

“You can achieve anything in life. It just depends on how desperate you are to achieve it.” 

                                                        – Milkha Singh (1929-2021)

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