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Milkha Singh, also known as The Flying Sikh took his last breath on 18 June 2021. The renowned Indian track and field sprinter was suffering from COVID-19 and was undergoing treatment at Fortis Hospital in Mohali. He was 91 years old.
Milkha Singh is the only Indian to win the gold for the 400m race at both Asian and Commonwealth Games. He is best remembered for his fourth place finish in the 400m final race in the 1960 Olympics. He had entered the race as one of the favourites. Though Singh finished the race in fourth place, he set a national record of 45.73 seconds which stayed for 40 years!
Bollywood movie, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is based on his life and actor Farhan Akhtar essayed the lead role. The movie was directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Actresses Divya Dutta and Sonam Kapoor have played important roles in the biographical film. While the movie was being made, Milkha Singh sold the rights to the filmmakers for just 1 rupee on one condition that a share of profits made by the movie will be donated to the Milkha Singh Charitable Trust. The Trust provides necessary help to the poor and needy sportsperson.
Today while the nation mourns the loss of a great athlete, we are here with some facts related to Milkha Singh. Scroll down the article to read on.
1. Milkha Singh was born on 20 November 1929 in a Sikh family in Govindpura, a village in Muzaffargarh, Punjab (present day in Pakistan).
2. He was one of the 15 siblings born to his parents. However, eight of his siblings died before the partition of India.
3. Milkha was orphaned at a very young age. His parents were killed along with his three siblings by a Muslim mob during the violence ensued after the partition.
4. Young Milkha saw his parents and siblings brutally killed while he fled for his life.
5. Escaping the killings and troubles in Punjab province, Milkha somehow managed to reach Delhi.
6. After reaching Delhi, he stayed with his married sister Ishvar and her in-laws.
7. During his stay with married sister, he was once imprisoned in Tihar Jail for travelling on a train without tickets. In order to bail him out, his sister sold her gold jewelry.
8. Milkha Singh also stayed at a refugee camp in Purana Quila and a resettlement colony in Shahdara for some time.
9. After going through various troubles and suffering the lack of money, Milkha got disenchanted with his life. He thought of becoming a dacoit. But then he met a brother, Malkhan, who advised him to join the Indian Army.
10. He attempted to get recruited by the Indian Army and he successfully made it to the Indian Army in 1951. It was his fourth attempt. .
11. While he was stationed at Secunderabad, he heard about Athletics. He was soon selected by the Indian Army for special training for Athletics.
12. After being selected, he recalled running 10 km to and from school before the partition of India. He acknowledged that coming from a small village, he didn't know what running was and had never heard about the Olympics.
13. In 1956, Milkha Singh represented India in 200m and 400m races at the Melbourne Olympic Games.
14. Since he was inexperienced, he suffered a heat stroke. But the meeting with Charles Jenkins, the eventual 400m champion inspired him to a great extent. The meeting also helped him in gaining important information related to training methods.
15. In 1958, Milkha Singh set a national record for 200m and 400m race in the National Games of India, organised at Cuttack. In the same year, he won gold medals in the same category at the Asian Games.
16. In the 1958 British Empire, he won gold medals in the 400m race. He also won gold in the Commonwealth Games for completing the race in 46.6 seconds making him the first to win gold from Independent India. He held the position till Vikas Gowda won the gold in 2014.
17. In 1960, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru persuaded Milkha Singh to participate in a race against Abdul Khaliq, the then Champion of Pakistan. Singh won the race and a comment made by the then General Ayub Khan gave him the nickname "Flying Sikh".
18. In 1962 Asian Games, held in Jakarta, he won gold medal for the 400m and 4*400 m relay race.
19. Following his success in 1958, he was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest gallantry award. He was also promoted from the rank of sepoy to junior commissioned officer in recognition of his success in 1958 Asian Games
20. He became the Director of Sports in Punjab Ministry of Education. He retired from this post in 1998.
21. In 2001, he turned down the offer of the Arjuna Award stating that the Government should recognise young talents rather than rewarding someone like him.
22. All the medals won by Singh have been donated to the nation. The medals and awards were once displayed at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Later, they were shifted to a museum in Patiala. The museum also displayed the pair of shoes Singh wore in Rome.
23. He married Nirmal Saini, a former captain of the Indian Women's Volleyball team in 1962. The couple had three daughters and one son named Jeev Milkha Singh who happens to be a renowned Golfer.
24. The couple also adopted a son named Havildar Bikram Singh who died at the Battle of Tiger Hill.
25. Singh was admitted to the intensive care unit Fortis Hospital, Mohali on 24 May 2021. He was suffering from pneumonia caused due to COVID-19.
26. Meanwhile, his wife Nirmal Saini died on 13 June 2021 due to COVID-19.
27. Initially, Singh's condition was described to be stable but then he breathed last at 11:30 PM on 18 June 2021.