Milkha Singh - The Flying Sikh Who Has Become A Living Legend In India

Milkha Singh was born on 17th October 1935 in Lyallpur which has now become Faisalabad in Pakistan. He was not even twelve years old when his parents were killed right in front of his own eyes during the partition riots in Pakistan. He was heartbroken and escaped, literally running for his life, crossing the border by hanging on to the under carriage of a train that was bound for Delhi. The train was packed with refugees that were escaping to India.

Once he reached Delhi, he turned to the army for his bread and butter. The Services were responsible for giving him a life support system. His Commanding Officer saw his potential as an athlete and encouraged him to take up athletics on a full time basis. The Services nurtured his dream. He had a dream and an obsession for running in track events that dominated Asian athletics to such an extent that he was respected in Manila and Tokyo during his important years on the track as a `Flying Sikh’. It is because of his determination that he showed in these early years that made the sport of athletics as his salvation and turned him into a living legend of Indian sport.

During his career, he represented India in two Asian Games, two Commonwealth Games and three Olympics. He came into the limelight at the National Games in Patiala in 1956. Then he went on in the subsequent years to set a record in the 200 metres as well as the 400 metres races at Cuttack. Milkha Singh made his Olympic debut at Melbourne in 1956. It was an uneventful participation for him as he did not make a mark in any event but learnt much from the advice of an American Charles Jenkins who won the 400 metres event there. This turned out to be the turning point in Milkha Singh’s career. He trained so violently at times that he would end up vomiting blood.

In the 1958 Asiad at Tokyo, he beat Pakistan’s Abdul Khan in the 200 metres race and also won the 400 metres race that became his favourite event in the future. He became a celebrity in the Asian sporting circle. In the same year at the Commonwealth Games at Cardiff that were known as the Empire Games then, he won the 400 metres race in 46.6 seconds beating the South African, Malcolm Spence.

He peaked well for the Rome Olympics in 1960. He qualified for the finals. Everyone was expecting him to get a medal but the final round was tough with the best qualifiers from the world and he was pipped at the post by the same South African Malcolm Spence by a fraction of 0.01 second to come fourth even though he finished at a record 45.7 seconds from Indian standards. An Olympic medal eluded him. He went on to win the 400 metre events gold at Manila and Jakarta in the later years.

Throughout India’s entire sporting history, there was not a single person who could dominate in athletics on an international level. India does not have much of a tradition in the field of sports like men’s track and field events. It is very hard to swallow the fact that a nation of over a billion people could not create heroes in track and field events in the Olympics. Yet, Milkha Singh was that first lone athlete to reach an Olympics final and almost picked up a bronze medal for India in Rome.  His track record speaks highly of him. He has won 77 of the 80 races he ran during his career.

After Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, he is perhaps the greatest sportsman for India. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1958. He has become Director of Sports in the Punjab Government. His son, Jeev Milkha Singh, has kept his father’s head high by becoming the first Indian golfer to become a member of the European Tour.

Article Posted By : tahnaklView All Articles

Tahseen Nakavi Juror

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Keywords :
Milkha Singh , Sports , Athletics


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