A Tribute to “flying Sikh” Sprinter Milkha Singh

Milkha Singh

Legendary sprinter Milkha Singh died of post Covid-19 complications late on Friday night after being admitted to the intensive care unit at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMR), Chandigarh. He was 91.

Milkha arrived in Delhi as a shattered teenager, one of thousands of refugees who had barely escaped with his life in the newly created Pakistan. Born in Llayalpur, Faisalabad in present-day Pakistan, he was lucky to survive the atrocities after witnessing the killing of his parents and a sister. Traumatized and malnourished reaching Delhi, he was even jailed briefly for ticketless train travel. Milkha was determined to join the army. He was rejected thrice and being too frail didn’t help. His never-say-die attitude paid off eventually as he was selected the fourth time. He was sent to the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME), Secunderabad where the newly enlisted jawan’s athletic abilities were spotted after impressing in a routine long run. Despite all the sufferings and struggles going stride for stride with contemporary greats was farthest from his mind.

Milkha Singh is the only athlete to win gold at 400 metres at the Asian Games as well as the Commonwealth Games. Before Vikas Gowda won the gold in 2014, Milkha was the only Indian male to have won an individual athletics gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. He also won gold medals in the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games. He represented India in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, in recognition of his sporting achievements.

Despite missing an Olympic bronze by 1/10th of a second in a race where both the gold and silver medallists broke the world record, he remained a colossus in Indian sports. That run in Rome still remains the gold standard for Indians. No Indian athlete has won a medal in the 14 editions since then, which has contributed to his enduring legend. Singh’s commitment to his country can be highlighted by the fact that despite painful memories, Milkha at the persuasion of Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to travel to Pakistan for a noble cause of peace and successfully raced against Abdul Khaliq in Pakistan. His rapid speed impressed the then General Ayub Khan where a post-race comment by him led to him acquiring the nickname of The Flying Sikh.

Below is the major list of medals that the Flying Sikh won.


Event Category
Gold 1958 Asian Games 200 m
Gold 1958 Asian Games 400 m
Gold 1958 Commonwealth Games 440 yards
Gold 1962 Asian Games 400 m
Gold 1962 Asian Games 4X400 m relay
Gold 1958 Cuttack National Games 200 m
Gold 1958 Cuttack National Games 400 m
Silver 1964 Calcutta National Games 400 m

Credits for Wikipedia for the information in the piece.


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