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Milkha Singh, The Flying Sikh Passes Away

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Milkha Singh, the legendary Indian sprinter passes away at the age of 91 after a month-long battle with Covid-19.

He was one of India’s most successful track and field athletes and was known as the “Flying Sikh”.

Singh has won four Asian Games gold medals and became India’s first Commonwealth Games champion in 1958. He was honored with the Padma Shri – one of India’s highest civilian honors – the following year.

The athlete contracted Covid-19 last month and had undergone treatment at a hospital in Chandigarh, India’s northern city.

He died late Friday after developing Covid complications. This included fever and a drop in oxygen saturation levels.

 “He fought hard but God has his ways and it was perhaps true love and companionship that both our mother Nirmal ji and now Dad have passed away in a matter of 5 days,” the family statement said.

Nirmal Kaur, wife of Milkha Singh and a former national volleyball captain also passed away due to the virus last Sunday.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook flooded with tributes to the late athlete on Saturday.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished” by the news.

He wrote on Twitter – 

“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 himself to millions.”

Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India said the death of the country’s sporting icon filled his heart with grief.

 “The story of his struggles and strength of character will continue to inspire generations of Indians,” he tweeted.

 

The Flying Sikh

Milkha Singh represented India in 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics.

He famously lost the 400 meters race at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and came fourth with a time of 45.73 seconds. This was a national record that stood for 40 years.

But the regret of not winning an Olympic medal always haunted him.

“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 in an interview in 2011.

Singh was born in 1929 in Govindpura, a small village in Pakistan and grew up at the time of British rule in India.

He lost both of his parents when he was a teenager in 1947. It was a phase when there was a riotous partition that created two neighboring sovereign countries.

 “The kind of hardship I’ve seen during partition, you’ll never understand that,” he told CNN previously. “My parents were killed right in front of my eyes. They were murdered, right there.”

Singh fled to India by train, hiding under the seats in the ladies’ carriage. Later, when he arrived at New Delhi, he joined the Indian Army and started his running career.

His life story inspired a 2013 Bollywood film called “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” which means “Run Milkha Run” in English.

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