Milkha Singh, one of independent India’s biggest sporting icons, ace sprinter, died on Friday after a month-long battle with COVID-19.
A four-time Asian Games gold medallist and dubbed the “Flying Sikh”, passed away at a hospital in the north Indian city of Chandigarh late on Friday.
“Dad just passed away,” Singh´s son Jeev Milkha Singh, himself a leading pro golfer, told the Indian Express newspaper.
Singh had first tested positive for the virus on May 20, as per Indian media reports.
His wife Nirmal Kaur, a former volleyball captain, had died of the virus just days earlier. She was 85.
Born in 1929 in Govindpura, in what is now Pakistan, Milkha Singh rose to fame at the 1960 Olympics in Rome when he finished fourth in the 400m after a photo-finish was required to decide the winner.
He was the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in the 400m division in 1958.
He narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal, finishing fourth at the 400m final of the 1960 Rome Games.
If only #MilkhaSingh's last wish to see an Olympic medal came true
Go well, Legend! pic.twitter.com/5M5ui4Zn9C
— The Bridge (@the_bridge_in) June 19, 2021
Tributes continue to pour in on social media in the early hours of Saturday for Milkha Singh in India and from the other side of the border as well.
– The legendary sprinter Milkha Singh (Flying Sikh) departs at age 91, your legacy will fly high, always.
Our heartfelt condolences to his family in this hard time… #MilkhaSingh
Saddened over death of #MilkhaSingh in India. flying Sikh. He was from our area Kot Addu (Muzaffargarh). A son of soil. My condolences with his family. I had started taking exercise seriously after listening his pearls of wisdom. This 1.44 minutes clip can change your life too
— Rauf Klasra (@KlasraRauf) June 19, 2021
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) June 19, 2021
Great man. Great Indian. Did so much to make us proud. What a life! #MilkhaSingh
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) June 19, 2021
His life was the inspiration behind Bollywood’s biopic released in 2013 titled “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (Run, Milkha, Run).
Featuring Farhan Akhtar in the title role, the film was directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
The film’s lead actor Farhan Akhtar, who won top awards for his portrayal of the star athlete, paid tribute to Singh in an emotional message.
“You represented an idea. You represented a dream,” Akhtar wrote in a social media post. “You represented (to use your own words) how hard work, honesty, and determination can lift a person off his knees and get him to touch the sky.”
— Farhan Akhtar (@FarOutAkhtar) June 19, 2021