Milkha Singh, one of India’s early sports superstars and sprinter who overcame childhood tragedy to become the country’s most famous athlete, has passed away. He was 91 years old.
Singh’s family said he died of complications from Covid-19 at a hospital in the northern city of Chandigarh on Friday evening.
Singh had tested positive for the coronavirus for the first time on May 20. His wife Nirmal Kaur, a former volleyball captain, had died from the virus days earlier. She was 85 years old.
“He fought hard but God has his means,” Singh’s family said in a statement.
Popularly known as the “Flying Sikh,” Singh was the first Indian athlete to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 400m division in 1958. He narrowly missed an Olympic medal, finishing fourth in the final of the 400 m of Rome 1960. Games.
Singh represented India at the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes to the athlete and called him “a colossal sportsman, who captured the nation’s imagination and who held a special place in the hearts of countless Indians”.
“Her inspiring personality has been loved by millions of people,” Modi said in a tweet.
Singh was born in a small village in undivided India, which is now in Pakistan. He saw his parents and siblings killed by mobs during the partition of British India, which left up to 1 million dead and led to the creation of two new countries: India and Pakistan.
During the riots, Singh escaped into the jungle and then managed to find a train that took him to New Delhi, where he later joined the military.
Singh’s exploits on the track made him a national hero. His story of becoming the first athletic champion of the newly created country has been passed down from generation to generation. In 2013, his life was turned into a popular Bollywood film, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (Run Milkha Run).
Singh is survived by one son – golfer Jeev Milkha Singh – and three daughters.