Inspiring Indians - Milkha Singh

Milkha Singh is one of the greatest athletes India has ever produced. As he celebrates his birthday this month and as we host the Commonwealth Games 2010 let us know more about the 'flying sikh'. 

About Milkha Singh

Milkha Singh represented India in the 1960 Rome Olympics. He is nicknamed "The Flying Sikh". Born at Layallpur, now in Pakistan, on 8 October 1935, he had lost his parents in the Partition of India and reached India from Pakistan in the cross border trains carrying refugees. He shot into limelight as an athlete during the National Games at Patiala in 1956.

His achievements

Milkha Singh broke the Olympic record for the 400 metres run in September 1960
He won the gold medal at the 1958 Asian Games at Tokyo in the 200 metres and 400 metre categories
He followed this up with a gold in the Commonwealth Games in 1958
He won the gold medal at the 1962 Asian Games

The curious Romans

He was extremely popular during the 1960 Rome Olympics. His mere entry into the stadium would result in a cheer from the crowd. Milkha Singh was among the top runners in the world. Though Rome saw the assembly of top athletes, yet no athlete could draw as much response from the crowd as Milkha Singh. The real reason for him to be extremely popular among the people was that he had long hair and beard. People in Rome had not seen any athlete with such a unique headgear. It fascinated the Romans. They thought the man was a saint. So they wondered how a saint could run so fast. In addition to that none in Rome had any knowledge about Sikhism. 

His Great Olympic Effort 

In the first heat in the Rome Olympics in 1960, Milkha Singh clocked 47.6 seconds to finish second. In the second round he finished second to Karl Kaufman of Germany with a timing of 46.5 seconds. In the semis he came second but he further reduced a few more seconds from his early timing (45.9). 

In the final, Milkha Singh went off the blocks and took an early lead. He slowed a bit midway into the race and the others overtook him there. He increased his pace and gave his best in the last lap. However the race was such a close and fierce one that he had to settle for fourth by just 0.1 second. However his effort is hailed as he clocked 47.6, 46.5, 45.9 and 45.6 seconds in his four runs clocking a better timing in every outing. 

Inspiration Milkha

He is a true inspiration because he belonged to a time when there was no coach for him, no reward for his effort and no job security to keep training, all he had was a will to win and that made him greater.  

Do you know why Milkha Singh is nicknamed "Flying Sikh"? 

It was during the race in the Indo - Pak meet at Lahore that Milkha Singh earned the`title' of the "Flying Sikh". The whole stadium was packed to see the key contest between two of Asia's finest runners. Milkha Singh outran Asia's most celebrated athlete, Abdul Khaliq of Pakistan, in the 200 metres. It was said that Milkha did not run the race but he flew, hence the title.

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