NEW DELHI (AP) Milkha Singh, one of India’s first sports superstars and top sprinter to overcome a childhood tragedy and become the country’s most celebrated athlete, has passed away. He was 91.
Singh’s family said he died late Friday of complications from COVID-19 at a hospital in the northern city of Chandigarh.
Singh first tested positive for the coronavirus on May 20. His wife Nirmal Kaur, a former volleyball captain, had died from the virus just days earlier. She was 85.
“He fought hard, but God has his ways,” Singh’s family said in a statement.
Popularly known as ‘the flying Sikh’, Singh was the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in the 400m division in 1958. He narrowly missed an Olympic medal, finishing fourth in the 400m final of Rome in 1960. Games.
Singh represented India at the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tribute to the athlete, calling him a “colossal athlete, who captured the imagination of the country and held a special place in the hearts of countless Indians.”
“His inspiring personality endeared himself to millions,” Modi said in a tweet.
Singh was born in a small village in undivided India, which is now Pakistan. He saw his parents and siblings killed by a mob during the partition of British India, which killed up to 1 million people and led to the creation of two new countries, India and Pakistan.
During the riots, Singh escaped into the jungle and managed to find a train that took him to New Delhi, where he later joined the army.
Singh’s exploits on the track made him a national hero. His story of becoming the new country’s first athletics champion has been passed down from generation to generation. In 2013, his life was turned into a popular Bollywood movie, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (Run Milkha Run).
Singh is survived by a son golfer Jeev Milkha Singh and three daughters.
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