India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.

Milkha Singh wins first individual gold for India at the 1958 Commonwealth Games

Milkha Singh put Indian athletics on the world map by winning the gold in the then 440 yards race of the 1958 British and Commonwealth Games on July 24, becoming the first Indian to win gold in the competition.

To celebrate the feat, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had declared a national holiday on his request.

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Standing to attention at the Indian National Anthem is played, the winner and runners up in the 200 M sprint in the 3rd Asian Games. (from left) E. Bautista of Philippines 3rd, Milkha Singh of India, 1st and Abdul Khaliq of Pakistan 2nd. Singh's time of 21.6 secs equalled the Asian Games record. (June 02, 1958).

 

Earlier that year at the Tokyo Asian Games, he met then fastest man of Asia, Abdul Khaliq, who had won the 100 metres gold. When the two got into the race (in the 200 metres category), Milkha came out victorious beating the Pakistani athlete convincingly.

The two met again in Lahore two years later when Milkha won the race again, with the Indian earning the title 'The Flying Sikh' here by the then Pakistan President General Ayub Khan.

ALSO READ |  Nation bids farewell to Flying Sikh Milkha

A four-time Asian Games gold medallist and 1958 Commonwealth Games champion, Milkha put his career record at 77 wins out of 80 races.

While his four Asian Games golds — 200m and 400m in 1958 and 400m and 4x400m relay in 1962 — put him firmly in the pantheon of legends, ironically his biggest and most memorable moment was also the most tragic when he finished fourth at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

His timing of 45.6 seconds, though, remained a National record for 38 years till Paramjeet Singh broke it in 1998 at a national meet in Kolkata.

The Indian sprint legend, who was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1959, passed away on June 18 after a month-long battle with COVID-19 aged 91, five days after losing his wife Nirmal Kaur.

(Excerpts from an article published in The Hindu on  June 19, 2021 )