Legendary Indian athlete Milkha Singh, popularly known as ‘Flying Sikh, passed away in a local hospital here at 11.30 p.m. on Friday, said a statement from the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, where he was being treated for Covid-related complications.
Milkha was 91, and is survived by a son, ace golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, and three daughters.
He was born in Layalpur, in undivided India and now in Pakistan. His love with athletics began after he enrolled himself with the EME Corps of the Indian Army.
Six days ago, on June 13, Milkha’s wife Nirmal had passed away. A former India volleyball captain, she was 85, and she too was affected by Covid and related complications.
“Legendary Indian Sprinter Shri Milkha Singh ji was admitted in the ICU of Covid Hospital of PGIMER on 3rd June 2021 and was treated for Covid there till 13th June when after putting up a valiant battle with Covid, Milkha Singh Ji tested negative,” said Prof Ashok Kumar, official spokesperson, PGIMER, in a media statement after Milkha Singh passed away.
“However, due to post-Covid complications, he was shifted out of Covid Hospital to medical ICU. But despite best of efforts by the medical team, Milkha Singh ji could not be retrieved from his critical condition and after a brave fight, he left for his heavenly abode at 11.30 p.m. on 18th June 2021, here at PGIMER,” the statement said.
Milkha Singh’s family also issued a statement after he passed away.
“He fought hard but God has his ways and it was perhaps true love and companionship that both our mother Nirmal ji and now dad have passed away in a matter of five days,” the family statement read.
“We are deeply indebted to the doctors at PGI for their valiant efforts and the love and prayers we received from across the world and from yourselves. We Thank You,” said the family.
Milkha became popular when he clocked 45.6 seconds to finish fourth at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. Until that time, it was the closest that an Indian athlete had come to win an individual Olympic medal.
Later, of course, P.T. Usha missed bronze by a whisker in 400m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. She clocked 55.42 seconds and missed the bronze by a mere 0.01 seconds.
Decades later, a Bollywood film was made on Milkha Singh.
“Prof. Jagat Ram, Director PGIMER expresses his deepest condolences on the sad demise of this ‘most revered’ sporting icon, who will be remembered for his exceptional accomplishments on and off the field and his endearing and humane personality,” said the PGIMER statement.