The Indian sporting Legend ‘Milkha Singh’ or ‘The Flying Sikh’ as he was commonly known, was born on 20th November 1929 at Govindpura, Punjab province, British India (present day Punjab, Pakistan). He was born to Sikh parents of Rathore Rajput origin. He witnessed the killings of his parents and siblings during the violent partition of India and got orphaned and displaced at avery tender age. He struggled a lot during his childhood days owing to the cruel situation arising in his life because of India’s partition.
He moved to Delhi, India in 1947, lived with a family of married sister, also spent some time in a refugee camp in Purana Qila. Disappointed with his life, he even thought of becoming a dacoit but he was a man who had faith in himself and therefore chose the right path in his life.
Source – Olympics.com
He managed to get recruited in the Indian Army after a few attempts in 1951, where he was introduced to Athletics. With his consistent hard work, dedication and true spirit, he earned his first gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1958, thus becoming the first Indian athlete to bring such glory to his nation. Years after that it was only Vikas Gowde who could win the gold medal in 2014. Till that date, Milkha Singh was the only Indian to have won the gold medal in Individual Athletics at the Commonwealth Games.
That was the time when India was still trying to create recognition for itself as acountry on the global platform. Thus he created a history and inspiration for the coming generations. He then again achieved victory both in 1958 and 1962 Asian Games by winning gold medals. He represented the country in 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, then in 1960 Olympics in Rome and third time again at Summer Olympics in 1964 Tokyo.
In the 1960 Olympics he was the first Indian male who managed to enter the final of an Olympic Athletics event but he just missed his bronze medal and stood fourth in the 400 metre race. His failure to earn this Olympic medal agonized him for so many years even later in his life. India’s fourth highest civilian award ‘Padma Shri’ was awarded to him after his success in 1958. He got the name ‘The Flying Sikh’ by the then President Ayub Khan of Pakistan when he successfully ran against Abdul Kahliq in Pakistan.
Source – pinterest.com
He got married to Nirmal Kaur, his lady love in 1962 who was a former captain of Indian women volleyball team in 1992. He had one son Jeev Milkha Singh, an internationally acclaimed Golfer, and three daughters. In 1960 he became the Director of Sports in the Punjab Ministry of Education. He retired from the post in 1998. He donated his medals to the country. Initially they were exhibited at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium then finally they were shifted to a museum in Patiala.
In 2012 he gave away his Adidas shoes which he had worn during the 400 metre final race at the 1960 Rome Olympics to a charity auction arranged by the actor Rahul Bose. He also got his autobiography ‘The Race of My Life’ published in 2013, which was co-written with his daughter Sonia Sanwalka. The movie ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ which was based on his life story was directed by Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra and starred Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh. The sculptors of Madame Tussauds in London created his wax statue.
He breathed his last on June 18, 2021. He suffered from Covid and passed away due to its complications. Though he is no longer with us, he will remain as a role model to the upcoming generations forever. His life has been a true portrayal of faith in one’s self, hard work, dedication, courage and hope. He had experienced the cruelties of life at a very young age but instead of falling prey to the circumstances he overcame his grief and strived for a good future.
He always challenged his competitors in a great spirit and excelled because of his self-motivation and self-confidence. He believed that there was no substitute to hard work and he taught us to never give up and keep working towards your goal. Victory to him was beyond medals. Hence he donated them to the country instead of displaying them in his drawing room.
His life will always remain to be one of the most influential and heartening stories of Indian sports.The Flying Sikh will always be admired and will live in the hearts of coming generations of sportsmen.
Written by- Divyansh Kaul
Edited by- Riya Khetan