Moscow Olympic gold medallist hockey player Ravinder Pal Singh succumbs to COVID-19

Ravinder Pal Singh, former India hockey player and a member of the 1980 Moscow Olympics-winning side, died on Saturday morning in Lucknow after battling COVID-19.

File picture of Ravinder Pal Singh.   -  The Hindu

Former Indian hockey player and member of the 1980 Moscow Olympics winning side Ravinderpal Singh passed away at a Lucknow hospital early on Saturday. He was 61.

Singh had tested positive for COVID on April 24 and had been hospitalised since then. He had been shifted to a non-COVID ICU on Thursday after testing negative but his condition suddenly deteriorated and he had to be put on a ventilator on Friday.

READ: Muneer Sait wishes Ravinder Pal Singh, M.K. Kaushik a speedy recovery

A two time Olympian – he was also part of the 1984 LA Olympics – the Sitapur-born Singh was only 20 when he became an Olympic gold medallist at Moscow, the last Olympic medal for Indian hockey.

A product of the Lucknow Sports Hostel and a contemporary of Mohammed Shahid, Singh was known for his speed and interception.

“He was excellent with his ball-distribution and anticipation, the two key attributes for a good centre-half. He was someone you could depend on to have your back at all times. Calm and composed on the field with a bent stance to control the ball, he was a complete player. Perfect in his game on the field, he was quite jovial off it,” remembers Zafar Iqbal, his teammate and senior at the Olympics.

 

Employed with State Bank of India, Singh had taken early retirement and is survived only by his niece Pragya Yadav, having remained unmarried. However, he withdrew completely from the sport or anyone associated with it once he quit hockey, a chronic spinal injury hastening his exit.

Zafar rued that he did not meet or talk to anyone despite several efforts. “He was reserved as a player back then also but was also jovial, often cracking jokes and was very naughty and universally loved by everyone in the team. He was a free man in the true sense, not bothered about the future or his place in the team or anything serious. But later on he became incommunicable. Even those he played or worked with in the same city could not contact him. He seemed to have simply detached himself from everything,” he said.

The last time he was seen in public was at a function some months back organised by RP Singh, another of hockey stalwarts from UP and the current state sports director. It was a rare occasion for someone who, in his own words a few years ago, “hardly watched any hockey”.

In his later years, he was more into football, perhaps a throwback to his father who was also a football player.

On field, it was his speed and interception and off it, his ability to avoid people that made Ravinder Pal Singh unique. Sadly, he could not evade COVID.

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