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Indian athletics star Milkha Singh dies after catching Covid, aged 91

Indian athletics star Milkha Singh dies after catching Covid, aged 91

Milkha Singh, one of India’s first sport superstars, has died of Covid-related complications at the age of 91.

Singh, who was popularly known as the Flying Sikh, died late on Friday in a hospital in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, his family said.

Singh tested positive for Covid on 20 May. His wife, Nirmal Kaur, a former volleyball captain, had died of the virus days earlier. She was 85.

“He fought hard, but God has his ways,” Singh’s family said.

Indian athletics star Milkha Singh dies after catching Covid, aged 91

Singh was the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, in the 400m event in 1958. He narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal, finishing fourth in the 400m final of the 1960 Rome Games.

Singh represented India at the Olympics in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, led tributes to the athlete:

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. Anguished by his passing away. pic.twitter.com/h99RNbXI28— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 18, 2021

Singh was born in a small village of undivided India, which is now in Pakistan. He saw his parents and siblings being killed by a mob during the partition of British India, which left as many as a million people dead and led to the creation of India and Pakistan.

Singh escaped to the jungle during the riots and then managed to find a train that brought him to Delhi, where he later joined the army.

His exploits on the track made him a national hero. His story of becoming the newly created country’s first athletic champion has been passed on through generations. His life was turned into a popular Bollywood film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag or Run Milkha Run, in 2013.

Singh is survived by a son, the golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, and three daughters.


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