Milkha Singh, also known as the Flying Sikh, was an Indian track and field athlete who is considered one of the greatest sprinters in the history of Indian athletics. He was born on October 20, 1929, in Govindpura, Punjab, British India (now Pakistan), and passed away on June 18, 2021, in Chandigarh, India.
Early Life and Background
Milkha Singh’s life was marked by tremendous struggles and achievements. He lost his parents during the partition of India in 1947 and witnessed the violence and chaos of that period. He joined the Indian Army in 1951 and discovered his passion for running while serving.
Entry into Athletics
Milkha Singh’s breakthrough came in 1958 when he won gold medals in the 200 meters and 400 meters events at the Asian Games held in Tokyo. This success brought him international recognition. However, his most iconic race took place at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The Legendary Race: Rome Olympics 1960
At the Rome Olympics, Milkha Singh reached the final of the 400 meters race. Although he narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fourth, his performance became legendary. He set a national record with a time of 45.6 seconds, which stood for nearly 40 years. His inspiring story and nickname, the Flying Sikh, were born out of this race.
After the Rome Olympics, Milkha Singh continued to dominate Indian athletics, winning multiple gold medals in various international and national events. He held the 400 meters national record until 1998 when it was broken by Paramjit Singh. Singh’s record in the 400 meters remained unbroken for an astonishing 38 years.
Honors and Recognition
Milkha Singh’s achievements and contributions to Indian sports were widely acknowledged, and he received numerous accolades and honors. He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, in 1959. In 2001, he was presented with the prestigious Padma Bhushan. He was also the recipient of the Sportsman of the Century award by the Indian Olympic Association.
Beyond his athletic career, Milkha Singh dedicated himself to various charitable causes. He established the Milkha Singh Charitable Trust to support underprivileged sports athletes in India. He was an inspiration to many aspiring athletes and played a pivotal role in popularizing track and field events in the country.
Immortalized on Screen: “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”
Milkha Singh’s remarkable life and achievements were immortalized in the 2013 Bollywood film “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (Run Milkha Run), starring actor Farhan Akhtar. The movie beautifully portrayed his struggles, triumphs, and his indomitable spirit.
Remembering a Legend
Milkha Singh’s legacy continues to inspire generations of athletes in India and around the world. His determination, perseverance, and incredible athleticism will always be remembered, making him an enduring icon in the history of Indian sports.
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