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The world has lost the legendary Indian athlete, Milkha Singh on Friday. He was being treated for Covid-related complications in a local hospital in Chandigarh, India.

At the 1960 Olympics in Rome he finished fourth in the 400m after a photo-finish was required to decide the winner (“Milkha Singh dies due to COVID complications,” Gulf Today, June 19).

His time of 45.73 seconds was an Indian national record which stood for almost 40 years. But the devastated Singh never fulfilled his dream of winning an Olympic medal.

Singh was born in 1929 in Govindpura, in what is now Pakistan. He lost his family during the tumultuous partition of British-ruled India at independence in 1947, when it was divided into Pakistan and India, before going on to become one of the young country’s first athletic heroes.

His rise to elite athlete made Singh a national hero and inspired a Bollywood film in 2013 called “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (Run, Milkha, Run).

We have lost a colossal sportsperson. His inspiring personality endeared himself to millions.

Pakistan president General Ayub Khan gave Milkha Singh the famous moniker “Flying Sikh”... The Flying Sikh, as he is popularly known, is best remembered for his 400m race at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, where he became the first Indian male to reach the final of an Olympic event.

Tributes to the athlete known as the “Flying Sikh” poured in on social media after the news broke late on Friday such as: “Rest in Peace our very own ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh ji”, “Your demise has left a deep void in every Indian’s heart today, but you shall keep inspiring several generations to come.”

Singh did go to Pakistan and recalls that when he crossed the border he saw children lining the road holding the flags of India and Pakistan — the welcome was “overwhelming”.

Milkha’s wife, former Indian women volleyball captain Nirmal Kaur, also passed away on Sunday due to Covid-19-related complications.

Paldeep Singh — By email

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