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Milkha Singh: The Flying Sikh

By avuavi Jan 27, 2014 1240 Words
1. Born
1935 (age 77–78)
Govindpura, Punjab, British India
Chandigarh, India
Other names
The Flying Sikh
Track and field athlete
Retired; formerly of the Indian Army and Government of Punjab, India Religion
Nirmal Kaur
3 daughters; 1 son; 1 adopted son

Won the 200 and 400 meters events in the 1956 Tokyo Asian Games Won the 400 meters at the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games
Broke the Olympic record for the 400 meters event while finishing fourth in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games

2. ‘Azm tera bhi kuch haath hai taqdeerein banane mein, haathon ki lakeeron se taqdeerein nahi banti.’ Sardar Milkha Singh is the greatest living Sikh Athlete. Born in a family of modest means, joining the army and then discovering the penchant for running and winning is his life in summation. . He deservedly got an epithet named "Flying Sikh" from Pakistan General Ayub Khan. Till date (Until 2000 Sydney Olympics) the 'Flying Sikh' is the only Indian to have broken an Olympic record. Unfortunately, he was the fourth athlete to reset the mark and thus missed the bronze medal in the 400m event at the Rome Olympics in 1960. 3. Early Life

He was born on the 8th of October 1935 at Lyallpur (now in Pakistan), and had a very difficult childhood when he saw his parents and relatives being killed in front of his own eyes during the Indo-Pak partition Massacre. A 12 year old Milkha escaped for his life and hiding himself behind the corpses in the train to India, managed to get a new lease of life.yet,it was a hard uphill climb for the refugee from Muzaffargarh in west Pakistan.

4. Introduction to Athletics
Singh tried to get into the Army 3 times, but was rejected. Finally, his brother Malkhan Singh helped him get into the Electrical Mechanical Engineering branch of the Army in 1952, and it was there that he participated at the first sports meet in his life. . "That was the first time I saw a ground bedecked with flags," reminisces Singh. "I later participated in a crosscountry race with 300 to 400 jawans. And sat down after the first half mile before starting again -- that was my first race."

5. Making of a Champion
Under the guidance of his mentor Havaldar Gurdev Singh, Milkha began training hard and harder at the Army to become an accomplished Athlete. Determined to be the best and realising his talent as a sprinter, the jawan took to training five hours every day. Motivated by his coach, he left it to the elements to hone his craft -- running on the hills, the sands of the Yamuna river, and against the speed of a metre gauge train. He says so intense was his training that very often he vomitted blood and would collapse in exhaustion.

6. He showed his prowess for the first time at the Services Athletic Meet 1955, wherein he finished 2nd in the 200m and 400m race events. After delivering a much better performance and winning both the events at the National Games 1956 held at Patiala, Milkha went on to break the 200m and 400m records in the National Games 1958, held at Cuttack. He clocked 46.1m in 400m at National Games 1960 that was considered to be a World class performance of that time. But, his best had still to arrive.

7. International Career
Milkha represented the nation in the Melbourne Olympic Games 1956, his first Olympic event. Although he couldn’t fare quite well at the event being less experienced at the time, he learnt a lot from the competition to prepare himself well for the future meets.

8. The Golden Period
Probably the best period during Milkha’s career as an Athlete arrived between the year 1958 and 1960. He won Gold Medals in both 200m and 400m events at the Tokyo Asian Games 1958, clocking 21.6 seconds and 47 seconds respectively. setting a new record in the 200 and 400 metres at the Cuttack National Games At the Cardiff Commonwealth Games held the same year, he improved his 400m timing to 46.16 seconds, and grabbed a Gold Medal again.after clocking a world record 45.8 seconds in one of the 400 metres preliminaries in France, Milkha Singh finished fourth in a photofinish in the Olympics final. The favourite for gold had missed the bronze. By a fraction...

9. Since it was a photofinish, the announcements were held up. The suspense was excruciating. I knew what my fatal error was: After running perilously fast in lane five, I slowed down at 250 metres. I could not cover the lost ground after that -- and that cost me the race.” Dejected by his defeat, he made up his mind to give up sport. It was after much persuasion that he took to athletics again. Two years later, Milkha Singh won two medals at the 1962 Asian Games. that Milkha Singh was awarded the Helms trophy or being the best athlete in 1959.

10. Three years before the Indo-Pak war of 1965, Milkha Singh ran that one race which made President Ayub Khan christen him 'The Flying Sikh.' His defeat of Pakistan's leading athlete and winner of the 100 metres gold at the Tokyo Asiad, Abdul Khaliq, earned him India's bestknown sports sobriquet. "It has stuck since," he adds. But by then his golden period was over.

11. The Olympic Legend
The most important occasion in Milkha’s career arrived in the form of Rome Olympic Games 1960. In the first heat of 400m race at the Rome Olympic Games, he covered the race at 47.6 seconds and finished at 2nd position. In the second heat he further improved his timing and grabbed 2nd position again with a timing of 46.5 seconds. Karl Kaufman of Germany had outclassed him this time. In the Semi Final heat he still finished at 2nd place, although this time he further improved the timing with 45.9, beaten by only Ottis Davis of USA. In the final round of the coveted race, Milkha went off like an arrow and left all other competitors behind till the distance of 250m. It was when he miscalculated his own speed and committed the blunder of his lifetime and perhaps the history of Indian Athletics, by slowing down a bit.

12. Although he tried the hardest of his lifetime to recover the distance, the other opponents had lagged him behind enough for him to catch them again. The competition was so tough that Ottis Davis and Karl Kaufman clocked 44.8 seconds, while Malcolm Spence of South Africa covered the race in 45.5 seconds. Milkha, who was initially leading the race, finished just 0.1 seconds later by Spence, clocking 45.6 seconds. The difference was so minute that the announcement was initially held up and further declared after a photo-finish. Thus Milkha, who was a favorite for the Gold, lost a Bronze by a whisker, probably the closest an Indian Athlete could get to an Olympic Medal till now.

13. Awards & Honors
Honoring the incredible and hitherto the best performance by any Indian Athlete that Milkha Singh delivered throughout his sports career, he was bestowed upon the Padma Shri award (1958) and the Arjuna Award by the Government of India. A movie has also been made on the flying sikh of india in which farhan akhtar portrays the role of milkha singh.

Olympic medal record
Men's Athletics
Competitor for  IND

British Empire and Commonwealth Games
1958 Cardiff
440 yards
Asian Games
1958 Tokyo
200 m
1958 Tokyo
400 m
1962 Jakarta
400 m
1962 Jakarta
4 x 400 m relay

Decades after he hung up his running shoes, one thing is for sure -- the Flying Sikh still stands tall. 'He has been a great source of inspiration'

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