- Milkha Singh’s death comes five days after his wife Nirmal passed away due to the infection; Punjab govt announces one-day mourning
Chandigarh: Milkha Singh, one of India’s most famous athletes, died of Covid-19 complications later on Friday night, five days after the death of his wife Nirmal due to the infection. He was 91. He is survived by his son Jeev Milkha Singh and daughters Dr Mona Singh, Aleeza Grover and Sonia Sankwala.
The legendary sprinter had tested positive for Covid-19 on May 19 and was admitted to Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) on June 3. He tested negative on June 13. However, he developed post-Covid complications and was admitted to an ICU.
“Despite best of the efforts by the medical team, Milkha Singh ji could not be revived from his critical condition and left for the heavenly abode at 11.30 pm on June 18 at PGIMER,” said Dr Jagat Ram, director of PGIMER.
An illustrious career
Milkha Singh migrated from Pakistan to India during the Partition. His talents were recognized by the Indian Army, where he rose to fame and won awards in athletics. He set a national record in the 200m and 400m sprints in 1958. The same year, he was crowned the 200m and 400m champion during the Asian Games in Tokyo.
He also clinched the gold medal at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff. It made him the first Indian athlete to win an individual gold at the Commonwealth Games
He finished fourth in the 400 m final at 1960 Rome Olympics, narrowly missing a medal. He described it as one of the only two unforgettable incidents in his life, the other being the killing of his parents in Pakistan. In his autobiography, he blamed that loss on ‘error of judgement’. He had finished the race in 45.73 seconds. It remained a national record until 1998, when Paramjeet Singh managed to better it.
In 1960, after much persuasion by then PM Jawaharlal Nehru, he went to Pakistan for a race. He won that race, putting Pakistan’s Abdul Khaliq behind. Impressed, then Pakistan President Ayub Khan nicknamed him ‘The Flying Sikh’.
Milkha Singh was conferred the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 1959.
He retired from athletics after the 1964 Olympics.
A Bollywood film titled ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, starring Farkhan Akhtar, was made based on his life.
Nation mourns death of the legend
“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 himself to millions. Anguished by his passing away,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced on Twitter that Milkha Singh would be given a State funeral. Also, Punjab would observe a day of state mourning as “a mark of respect to the departed legend”.
Team India wears black armband
Indian cricketers paid their tribute by sporting black armbands during the World Test Championship (WTC) final match against New Zealand on Saturday.
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