“You can achieve anything in life. It just depends on how desperate you are to achieve it.” – Milkha Singh
Popularly known as Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh, India’s legendary athlete who died of COVID complications at the age of 91, will always be remembered as a gentleman who won the hearts of many people. He is the only athlete to win gold at 400 meters at the Asian Games as well as the Commonwealth Games. He also won gold medals in the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games.
In 1962, Milkha Singh defeated Abdul Khaliq, the fastest Pakistani runner and it was then that he was sobriquet the title of “The Flying Sikh” by Pakistani General, Ayub Khan.
Milkha Singh was born on 20 November 1929 in a Sikh family from Muzaffargarh city in Punjab Province (Now Pakistan). He lost his parents and relatives in the riots that followed the Indo-Pak partition. A 12-year-old Milkha escaped for his life and came to India.
Young Milkha used to walk barefoot 10 km from his village to a school in Pakistan. During his teens, he wanted to join the Indian army but was rejected thrice. He never gave up and got selected in his fourth attempt, when he had enrolled himself in the engineering department. It was during his time in the Army camp, that Milkha developed his interest in track and field events. On his training front, Milkha was once quoted as saying – “I would not stop till I had filled up a bucket with my sweat. I would push myself so much that in the end I would collapse and I would have to be admitted to hospital, I would pray to God to save me, promise that I would be more careful in the future. And then I would do it all over again.”
A part of the credit for national as well as international success goes to his coaches like Hawaldar Gurdev Singh, Randhir Singh, and J S Saini in the national and Army training camps. In Milkha’s own words – “No sports person can achieve results without an equally dedicated and committed coach.”
Milkha Singh ran 80 races all over the world winning 77. He was awarded the Helms World Trophy in 1959 by the USA by virtue of being the best 400-meter runner in the world and broke the Indian National record in the 1960 Rome Olympics, which stood for 40 years.
Milkha Singh was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, following his success in 1958.
In 2001, Milkha Singh declined the prestigious “Arjuna Award”, saying it came ‘40 years too late.
Below are all the medals that Milkha won for India from the year 1958 to 1964 –
|1||Gold||1958 Asian Games||200 m|
|2||Gold||1958 Asian Games||400 m|
|3||Gold||1958 Commonwealth Games||440 yards|
|4||Gold||1962 Asian Games||400 m|
|5||Gold||1962 Asian Games||4X400 m relay|
|6||Gold||1958 Cuttack National Games||200 m|
|7||Gold||1958 Cuttack National Games||400 m|
|8||Silver||1964 Calcutta National Games||400 m|
We lost a Legend!
Milkha Singh was 91 years old when he passed away due to COVID 19 complications on 18 June 2021 at Fortis Hospital in Chandigarh.
Milkha Singh’s last wish was to see an athlete from India winning an Olympic medal in a track and field event. Hope his wish gets fulfilled soon with an Indian bringing home the medal. May his soul rest in peace. He was and he shall remain a hero!