Indian sportspersons pay tribute to Milkha Singh

Prominent Indian sportspersons paid tribute to 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh, who died of COVID-19 on Friday.

Milkha Singh died aged 91 on Friday. - K. BHAGYA PRAKASH (FILE)

Prominent Indian sportspersons paid tribute to 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh, who died of COVID-19 on Friday.

Milkha passed away in a Chandigarh hospital after a month-long battle with COVID-19; he lost his wife Nirmal Kaur, a former national volleyball captain, to the same ailment. He was 91 and is survived by his golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh and three daughters.

The legendary athlete was a great inspiration to generations of Indian athletes, said World badminton champion P.V. Sindhu. Sindhu said she had spent some time with the great athlete at an awards ceremony once and shared thoughts on the contemporary sports scenario.

“He was such a humble person despite his stature. It was an unforgettable meeting and it is sad that he is no longer with us,” Sindhu said.


Jyotirmoyee, Gurbux remember the legend

Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, who won two gold medals in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, said Milkha’s achievements were incomparable.

“Now athletes are getting so many facilities. Even we got some. But think of the time when a few years after independence, Milkha shone in international events without any facilities,” Jyotirmoyee told Sportstar on Saturday.

“I remember getting a call from him when I won the two gold medals. I met him twice. When I introduced myself to him, he said, ‘Oh! You are Jyotirmoyee. Who does not know you?’

“Good that a film was made on him. Once I attended a school sports event and was delighted to see kids encouraging their friends by shouting ‘Bhag Milkha, Bhag.’ The film inspired the younger generation. He was a great athlete and it’s a sad day for Indian sports,” said Jyotirmoyee.

READ: Milkha would have got Olympic medals if he had been running now, says P.T. Usha

Another Olympian Soma Biswas, an Asian Games silver medallist, remembered Milkha as a legend who encouraged youngsters. “I met him for the first time during the 2001 Ludhiana National Games. He was an idol for all athletes. A few words of encouragement from him were enough for up-and-coming athletes like me. His passing is a great loss to Indian sports,” said Soma.

Gurbux Singh, a 1964 Tokyo Olympics gold medallist hockey player, remembered his contemporary Milkha. “In 1959, we had our hockey camp at the Yadavindra Singh Stadium in Patiala, where Milkha trained for the 1960 Olympics. Our captain Leslie Claudius was friendly with him.

“Later, we both participated in the 1964 Olympics. Milkha was a great icon of Indian sports and had a long and fruitful life,” said Gurbux.

Inspiration speech

Anju Bobby George watches Milkha Singh's talks occasionally to gain some valuable lessons even as she guides a young bunch of long jumpers think big.

“I used to watch some of his speeches, they were very inspirational. I used to admire how he was doing these things at such an old age. He was 91 and I could not believe that he was that energetic and healthy even at that age,” said Anju, the lone Indian to win a World championships medal with her bronze in Paris in 2003.

“I can imagine how strong he must have been in his prime, how hard he must have trained.”

Milkha and his wife Nirmal Kaur had come down to Kerala after Anju's World's medal and advised her to work towards the bigger dream.

“They came to my home town and told my mother that she was very lucky to have a daughter like me. Milkha was really happy and said he was expecting a medal from me from the Olympics,” said Anju.

T.C. Yohannan and Milkha Singh.   -  Special Arrangement


‘Sports promotion went up after Milkha's CWG gold’

T.C. Yohannan, former Asian Games long jump champion, remembered the time when Milkha used to him visit him at the hospital in Delhi after his injury in 1978.

“He used to come now and then. He was an inspiration to all Indians because sports promotion improved after Milkha's Commonwealth Games gold (in 440 yards). There was some improvement in all sports after Milkha's Commonwealth title,” said the former Asian record-holder.

Milkha Singh was very happy when Yohannan's son, Tinu Yohannan, made his Test cricket debut in 2001.

“He want to Mohali to talk to him,” said Yohannan.

Tinu said he was very motivated to see Milkha. “Just to see him was a big inspiration. He told me, 'you could have been a great athlete but you have made your father and us proud',” said Tinu.

Tumhe rukna nahi hai: Gurpreet remembers Milkha's words

"Tumhe rukna nahi hai (you cannot stop)", these words from legendary Millkha Singh still inspires Indian football goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who says the advice from the 'Flying Sikh' helped him fight challenges during his European stint.

Iconic sprinter Milkha died in Chandigarh on Friday due to COVID-19 related complications and there was outpouring of tributes from thousands of countrymen, including sports persons.

Gurpreet remembers a ceremony in Chandigarh in 2015 where Milkha gave away an award to him.

"He (Millkha) told me 'Hard work has no replacement. I even used to vomit blood at times after training but tumhe rukna nahi hai'," (You cannot stop!)," Gurpreet said in an AIFF release.

"At that time, I was playing my club football in Norway with FC Stabaek, where every day was a fight to prove myself and break into the starting lineup. It was a great challenge and living abroad, there were days when it was hard to keep my spirits up.

"However, I used to fall back on these words spoken to me by 'the Flying Sikh' himself, they were a great motivator and pushed me to give my all each day.

"The words he spoke to me are still with me and continue to be a huge source of inspiration. His words and blessings will always be with me whenever I am fighting on the football pitch for my country," said the 29-year-old India number one goalie who has also captained the national team.

(With inputs from V.V. Subrahmanyam, Y.B. Sarangi and Stan Rayan)

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