TRIBUTES have poured in for Milkha Singh after the India sprint sensation passed away at the age of 91 on Friday.
One of India‘s greatest-ever athletes, Singh – known affectionately as ‘The Flying Sikh’ – won his nation’s first-ever Commonwealth Games gold medal, as well as four Asian Games golds.
On Friday, it was confirmed Singh had died following complications from coronavirus, having contracted the virus last week.
Singh passed away just days after wife and former volleyball star Nirmal Kaur succumbed to the disease.
They are survived by their four children, including golf star son Jeev Milkha Singh – who became the first Indian to join the European Tour in 1998 and has ranked as high as No28 in the world.
And now, tributes have poured in for 200m and 400m star Singh – whose career was immortalised with a Bollywood movie entitled Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, which translates as Run Milkha Run, in 2013.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes to the ‘colossal sportsman’, as India’s cricketers wore black armbands for their World Test Championship final against New Zealand at Lord’s.
Modi said: “In the passing away of Shri Milkha Singh Ji, we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation’s imagination and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians.
“His inspiring personality endeared himself to millions.
“Anguished by his passing away.”
India’s cricket team – led by Virat Kohli – donned black armbands for their World Test Championship clash with New Zealand at Lord’s.
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar tweeted: “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.”
Ex-India captain Sourav Ganguly wrote: “Extremely saddened by this news… RIP.
“One of India’s greatest sportsmen… you have made young Indians dream of becoming an athlete.”
Another ex-cricket icon, Ravi Shastri, added: “India’s greatest @Olympics runner.
“Shook the world in 60s with his competitive spirit in spite of the most limited facilities.
“He took the word determination and will to compete to another level.
“Respect. God bless your soul. Condolences to @JeevMilkhaSingh & family.”
Singh won India’s first-ever Commonwealth Games gold medal in Cardiff in 1958 after storming to the 400m crown after discovering his talent on the track during his days in the army in 1951.
He also finished fourth in the final of the 400m at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome having won gold in the 200m and 400m events at the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Singh also won gold in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Arguably India’s greatest-ever Olympian, Singh once admitted he hadn’t even heard of the Games growing up.
Singh once claimed: “I came from a remote village, I didn’t know what running was… or the Olympics.”