India's Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh, passed away on Friday, June 18, at the age of 91, due to COVID-19 complications. He took his last breath at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh (PGIMER).
The ace sprinter had tested positive for the virus on May 19 but was in home isolation at his Chandigarh residence after he was found to be asymptomatic. A few days later, on May 24, Singh was admitted to the ICU of Mohali's Fortis Hospital as he had contracted COVID pneumonia. Weeks later, he was referred to PGIMER on June 3.
On June 13, he tested negative for the virus. However, owing to post-COVID complications, he was shifted to the intensive care unit. His condition deteriorated a day before he succumbed to the disease.
Singh's death comes five days after his wife, Nirmal, passed away due to the infection she had contracted last month.
The family confirmed his death at 11:30 PM. He is survived by three daughters Mona Singh, Aleeza Grover, and Sonia Sanwalka, and son Jeev Milkha Singh.
"He fought hard, but God has his ways, and it was perhaps true love and companionship that both our mother Nirmal Ji and now Dad have passed away in a matter of 5 days," said a statement by the family, reported NDTV.
Singh's demise has taken the Sports fraternity, leaders, netizens, and celebrities by shock.
Prime Minister Narendra, former cricket players including Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, and Anil Kumble, mourned the Indian Sprinter's demise.
Milkha Singh was an Indian track and field sprinter who was introduced to the sport while serving in the Indian Army.
A native of Gobindpura, presently in Pakistan, Singh was orphaned at an early age during partition. However, he managed to survive by taking up odd jobs including working in restaurants and cobbling.
The Flying Sikh
Singh was the first Indian track and field athlete to win gold in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Cardiff in 1958. He was the first Indian athlete to win an individual gold in the CWG.
Singh broke the record of South African athlete Malcolm Spence, with a timing of 46.6 seconds in the Scottish city.
The legendary sports star brought four golds home from the Asian Games - 200m and 400m in 1958, and 400m and 4x400m relay in 1962, The Indian Express reported.
For 50 long years, Singh was also the only one to have won gold before discus thrower Krishna Poonia, who won gold at the 2010 Common Wealth Games held in Delhi.
The 1960 Rome Olympics was the most remembered moment, where Singh attained fourth place in the 400m sprint. He considered it as one of the major heartbreaks of his career, on missing out on a medal. However, he set a record timing of 45.6 seconds, despite attaining the fourth position, a national record for 40 years, until athlete Paramjeet Singh broke it in 1998.
The disappointment of missing out on a medal in the Olympics haunted him for years, as he described during a conversation with Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju. Singh said he wished to see an Indian athlete making a record at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics before he dies, during a television interview.
The legend is an awardee of India's fourth-highest civilian honour, Padma Shri (1959).
His life story was brought to the silver screen in 2013 through the biographical-sports drama movie based on his life— Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Singh's character was played by actor Farhan Akhtar, who took to social media to mourn his death.
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