Milkha Singh, one of India’s first sports superstars and sprint ace who overcame a childhood tragedy and became the country’s most famous athlete, has died. He was 91.
Singh’s family said he was witnessing the aftermath of late Friday. died Covid-19 in a hospital in the northern city of Chandigarh.
Singh had first tested positive for the coronavirus on May 20th. His wife, Nirmal Kaur, a former volleyball captain, had died of the virus a few days earlier. She was 85.
“He fought hard, but God has his ways,” Singh’s family said in a statement.
Popularly known as “the flying Sikh”, Singh was the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal in the 1958 Commonwealth Games in the 400 meter division. He narrowly missed an Olympic medal and finished fourth in the 400m final of the 1960s Rome Games.
Singh represented India at the Olympic Games in 1956, 1960 and 1964.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi cited the athlete’s honor, calling him a “colossal athlete who sparked the nation’s imagination and held a special place in the hearts of countless Indians”.
“His inspiring personality has made himself popular with millions,” Modi said in a tweet.
Singh was born in a small village in undivided India that is now in Pakistan. He saw his parents and siblings killed by a mob during the partition of British India that killed up to 1 million people and resulted in the creation of two new countries – India and Pakistan.
During the riot, Singh fled into the jungle and then found a train that took him to New Delhi, where he later joined the army.
Singh’s heroics on the track made him a national hero. His story of becoming the first sports champion in the newly founded country has been passed on to generations. In 2013 his life became a popular Bollywood movie, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (Run Milkha Run).
Singh leaves behind a son – the golfer Jeev Milkha Singh – and three daughters.