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9 Unknown Facts about Milkha Singh and his Last Wish

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
Milkha Singh in his younger days

Milkha Singh passed away on the night of June 18, 2021, in Chandigarh due to Covid-19 related complications. His wife Nirmal Kaur had passed away due to Covid a week earlier.  

We all know about this “flying sikh,” who was a miraculous sprinter. He was a runner not just on the race tracks, but in the race of life too. And he won in both. He faced many hardships in life, saw death closely, and even saw what it feels to lose a race by 0.01 seconds.  

He had remarked during a conversation with a reporter from India Today two years back, It has been 60 years, and the miss at Rome still hurts me. I lost the medal by 0.01 seconds. I was so close." 

This was an incident of 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Milkha Singh became the first male athlete of India to reach the final in an Oympic event. Although he did not win the final and lost the race by 0.01 seconds, he became famous and set a national record that could be broken only after 38 years.  

The man who saw it all and kept running 

Milkha Singh, born in Gobindpura village of Punjab, which is now in Pakistan, saw his parents and his other siblings being massacred in front of his eyes during the partition riots in 1947.  

Milkha had informed the India Today reporter:Putt maine zindagi aur maut dono qareeb se dekhi hai (Son, I have seen life and death very closely). I realised at a very young age that I will have to keep running, and I did that exactly".

We may know Milkha Singh as one of the fastest runners and a dedicated sportsperson, but there are certain things you may not know. Here is a list of little known facts about this great sprinter who inspired generations.

Unknown facts about Milkha Singh 

  • The then President of Pakistan, General Ayub Khan, named Milkha Singh the “flying sikh” when he defeated Pakistan’s Abdul Khaliq, who was regarded as the fastest man in Asia. 

  • Milkha Singh had initially refused to go to Pakistan for the race, as he did not want to go back to the country where his parents were massacred. The then Prime Minister of India Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru convinced him to do so. 

  • Milkha Singh failed three times in the Indian Army entrance exam. He passed in the fourth attempt in 1951. 

  • Milkha Singh’s long hair and beard became the talk of the town during the 1960 Rome Olympic. It was the first time people saw such a sportsperson with “unique headgear.” People at first thought he was a saint! They wondered how a saint can run so fast.

  • Milkha Singh’s average running speed at the 1960 Rome Olympics 400m final was 32km/hr. 

  • Milkha Singh donates all this medals to the nation. At first, they were put at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Now, they are showcased at a Sports Museum in Patiala. 

  • Milkha once travelled in a train without a ticket and was caught. He was sent to Tihar jail. His sister had to sell off her jewelry for his bail. 

  • Milkha adopted Martyr Bikram Singh’s 7-year-old son in 1999. 

  • Milkha Singh refused to accept the esteemed “Arjuna Award” in 2001, saying that it came “40 years late.” He had received the Padma Shri in 1959. 

The last wish of Milkha Singh 

His last wish was to see an athlete from India winning an Olympic medal in a track and field event.  

Let’s see when his wish gets fulfilled.  

May his soul rest in peace.  

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