New Delhi, June 19 (EFE).- India on Saturday mourned the death of one of its biggest sporting icons, Milkha Singh, nicknamed the “Flying Sikh” for his awe-inspiring sprinting abilities.
Singh, 91, passed away in the northern city of Chandigarh on Friday due to covid-related complications.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in mourning the loss of a “colossal sportsperson” and paying tributes to one of the most famous Olympians in India.
“In the passing away of Milkha Singh, we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation’s imagination and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians,” Modi said in a tweet.
“His inspiring personality endeared himself to millions. Anguished by his passing away.”
The sprinter contracted the infection a month ago.
His wife, Nirmal Kaur, also a sports icon, who once led the national volleyball captain, died days ago due to Covid-19.
“He fought hard but God has his ways and it was perhaps true love and companionship that both our mother Nirmal and now Dad have passed away in a matter of five days,” the family said in a statement.
Singh, one of the most successful runners in Indian sporting history, won four gold medals at the Asian Games.
He was the first Indian athlete to win gold at the 1958 Commonwealth Games.
He finished fourth in the 400 meters at the 1960 Rome Olympics before representing the country in 1956 and 1964.
Singh was the father of former Asian Tour number one golfer Jeev Milkha Singh.
Singh was born in 1929 in a British-ruled Indian hamlet. The village after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 became part of Pakistan.
The then young athlete survived the communal violence unleashed during the bloody partition.
He lost his parents and relatives to the bloodshed in the aftermath of the division when he was 15.
The nonagenarian inspired a 2013 Bollywood biopic, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (Run, Milkha, Run) directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra with Farhan Akhar in the title role.
Singh famously wrote in his biography that “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” the sports drama title, were the last words of his father before a blood-thirsty mob killed his parents during the partition violence.
“With my father’s warning ‘bhaag Milkha, bhaag’ running through my head I fled for my life, sometimes running, sometimes walking (to a safer place). It was one of the most terrifying journeys of my life,” he wrote.
After arriving in India as an orphan alongside millions of other refugees, Singh joined the Indian Army, where he found his talent for sprinting. EFE