"We have lost a colossal sportsperson"
One of India’s greatest athletes, Milkha Singh, has passed away at the age of 91 due to Covid-related complications.
Popularly known as ‘The Flying Sikh’, Singh won four Asian gold medals and finished fourth in the 400m final at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
In 2013, his story was portrayed onscreen in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, with Farhan Akhtar playing Singh.
His passing comes just days after his wife, Nirmal Kaur, also passed away from Covid-19.
Singh contracted Covid-19 in May 2021 and died of complications from the disease in Chandigarh on June 18, 2021.
A family statement said: “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.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said:
“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.”
President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted:
“The story of his struggles and strength of character will continue to inspire generations of Indians.”
Virat Kohli said: “A legacy that inspired a whole nation to aim for excellence.
“To never give up and chase your dreams. Rest in Peace #MilkhaSingh ji. You will never be forgotten.”
Farhan, who portrayed Singh onscreen, wrote:
“Dearest Milkha ji, A part of me is still refusing to accept that you are no more.
“Maybe it’s the stubborn side I inherited from you.. the side that when it sets its mind on something, just never gives up.
“And the truth is that you will always be alive. Because you were more than a large-hearted, loving, warm, down to earth man.
“You represented an idea. You represented a dream. You represented (to use your own words) how hard work, honesty and determination can lift a person off his knees and get him to touch the sky.
“You have touched all our lives.
“For those who knew you as a father and a friend, it was a blessing. For those who didn’t as a constant source of inspiration and a reminder of humility in success.
“I love you with all my heart.”
Milkha Singh grew up in a small village in Pakistan’s Multan province. During Partition, he fled to India.
In India, he found a place in the army and discovered his athletic abilities.
Singh won India’s first Commonwealth gold at the 1958 games in Cardiff.
He went on to finish fourth in the 400m at the Rome Olympics, just missing out on a bronze medal.
However, he ran a time of 45.73 seconds, an Indian national record that stood for 40 years.
Despite never winning an Olympic medal, Singh only wished that “someone else should win that medal for India”.
Singh once revealed that he used to run six hours every day.
“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 future.
“And then I would do it all over again.”
Following his biopic film release in 2013, Singh told the BBC that it would “inspire the next generation”.
He said: “We had nothing in our times.
“The athletes and sportsmen in those days didn’t earn much money.
“We worked for the applause, people’s appreciation inspired and motivated us, we ran for the country.”