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Milkha Singh Ji: The Flying Sikh

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One of India’s great track and field athletes, Milkha Singh Ji was dubbed “the Flying Sikh” in recognition of his superior ability and achievements as a runner. Mr. Milkha Singh was born into a Sikh family on November 20, 1929, in Govindpuri, Muzaffargarh city, then part of the Punjab Province of British India.

The difficulties Milkha Singh encountered in his early life were met with determination and strength of will. Under the tutelage of his coach, Havildar Gurdev Singh, Milkha Singh trained for five hours daily and was determined to do well. He loved running. His routines included running up hills, on the sands of riverbanks, and against a meter gauge train.

Just two years later, in 1958, he won gold for the event at the Indian National Circuit, held in Cuttack. In that same year, Milkha represented India in the Asian Games, again winning two gold medals for the 200-meter and 400-meter events. He did not stop there, and he went on to Cardiff, Wales, for the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, where he won the gold medal for the 400-meter (440 yards at the time) race, being the first Indian to do so. Reflecting on that fateful day, Milkha said: “I said my prayers, I touched my forehead to the ground and said to God, ‘I am going to try my best, but India’s honor is in your hands.’”

Aside from his excellence on the running tracks, Milkha Singh also had a loving heart and a great desire to do good for the community. He donated all his medals to the country. In 2003, Milkha also launched Milkha’s Charitable Trust, hoping to change the lives of young people by giving them access to education, as well as to assist athletes in need.

On June 18, 2021, Milkha Singh sadly passed away from post-COVID-19 complications. His Excellency Prime Minister Narendra 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.”
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