Great Indian sprint legend Milkha Singh, 91, succumbed to post COVID-19 complications Friday night after a month-long battle with the virus.
Five days ago, Milkha’s wife, Nirmal Kaur, a former India volleyball captain, had lost her life in the battle with the COVID-19 at the same Mohali hospital where the legendary sprinter breathed his last. Milkha is survived by 14-time international winner and golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh, daughters Mona Singh, Sonia Singh, and Aleeza Grover, a family of iconic sports stars.
On May 20, Milkha had tested positive for COVD and was admitted to a private hospital in Mohali on May 24. He had been discharged on May 30 before he was admitted to the COVID ward at the Nehru Hospital Extension at PGIMER on June 3 due to falling oxygen levels. He had tested negative on Thursday earlier this week and was shifted to the medical ICU.
Then suddenly, his health deteriorated on Friday evening as he developed complications, including fever and very low oxygen saturation levels, after the brief fight with COVID were initially, he seemed to be doing well, but ultimately succumbed.
Celebrities, politicians, sportspersons, citizens all expressed their condolences while also remembering the great legend during the 1958 Commonwealth Games champion and 1960 Rome Olympian.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has announced a State Funeral to Milkha Singh on Saturday. Punjab will also observe a one-day of State mourning as a mark of respect to the departed legend. and Milkha Singh is to be cremated on Saturday evening.
Earlier when he heard he contracted COVID, he responded, “Yes Bachcha, I tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday (May 19). But I am fine, I have no problem, no fever, no cough. It will go away. My doctor told me I will be alright in three-four days,”
A couple of days later, Milkha was hospitalized at Mohali’s Fortis hospital as a precautionary measure. He passed five days after his wife Nirmal passed away from COVID, succumbing to her fight against the virus, on June 13.
When his wife Nirmal Milkha Singh died of COVID, he had said, ‘She has been the biggest trophy for me’
Milkha Singh, born in Gobindpura – in present-day Pakistan – was the first Indian track and field athlete to win gold in the then British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958. He remained the only one for more than 50 years before discus thrower Krishna Poonia won gold at the 2010 CWG in Delhi. Singh had beaten Malcolm Spence of South Africa with a timing of 46.6 seconds in the Scottish city.
While he had also won four Asian Games gold medals – 200m and 400m in 1958, and 400m and 4x400m relay in 1962 – Singh’s most memorable moment came at the 1960 Rome Olympics where he finished fourth in the 400m final in a photo-finish. Singh’s then-national record timing of 45.6 seconds, set in Rome, was broken by Paramjeet Singh in 1998.
In 2019, Singh had celebrated his 90th birthday with family members at his Sector 8 residence in Chandigarh. “It’s a special day for me and the whole family but celebrations can wait. The reason I am here to see this day is my fitness regime and that’s what I follow at the start of the day. It’s like a prayer for an athlete like me and I believe that as long as a person is fit, he remains active. When I am not playing golf, I go for a jog for more than two kms at Sukhna Lake. I want people to be passionate about fitness. Whether it is working people or senior citizens, they need to take 10 minutes of physical exercise daily at home or a park and I am glad that I can motivate people at this age too for fitness,” he said.
Condolences and glowing tributes pour out for him from sportspeople, celebrities, politicians, thousands of citizens:
Deeply saddened at the demise of the sports legend #MilkhaSingh ji. His achievements have inspired generations and will continue to do so for many more years to come. Rest in peace Sir 🙏🏻
— Abhishek Bachchan (@juniorbachchan) June 19, 2021
The real hero, Milkha Singh THE GREAT 👍 you have left us forever !!! We salute you, Son of Mother India 🇮🇳. you will always be remembered with great love and respect. May your soul Rest In Peace 🙏 pic.twitter.com/QjiN77DWzh
— Dharmendra Deol (@aapkadharam) June 19, 2021
— Mohanlal (@Mohanlal) June 19, 2021
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) June 19, 2021
Rest in Peace our very own ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh ji.
Your demise has left a deep void in every Indian’s heart today, but you shall keep inspiring several generations to come. pic.twitter.com/ImljefeUEN
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) June 19, 2021
The Flying Sikh may no longer be with us in person but his presence will always be felt and his legacy will remain unmatched… An inspiration to me… an inspiration to millions. Rest in Peace Milkha Singh sir.
— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) June 18, 2021
Upset and saddened to hear of Milkha Singh Ji’s demise. It marks the end of an era and India & Punjab are poorer today. My condolences to the bereaved family & millions of fans. The legend of the Flying Sikh will reverberate for generations to come. Rest in peace Sir! pic.twitter.com/7yK8EOHUnS
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) June 18, 2021
Saddened to hear about the demise of Shri Milkha Singh Ji. A legendary sportsman, he will be dearly remembered.
My sincere condolences to his family, loved ones and fans across the world.
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) June 18, 2021
Shri Milkha Singh ji was not just a sports star but a source of inspiration for millions of Indians for his dedication and resilience.
My condolences to his family and friends.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 19, 2021
पूरे विश्व में भारत का नाम ऊंचा करने वाले फ्लाइंग सिख मिल्खा सिंह जी का निधन एक गौरवपूर्ण अध्याय का अंत है। उनका जीवन हर भारतवासी को सपने देखना और पूरी मेहनत से उन्हें पूरा करने की प्रेरणा देता रहेगा। वे हम सबके दिलों में हमेशा अमर रहेंगे।
विनम्र श्रद्धांजलि । pic.twitter.com/uAQp0xQKqf
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) June 19, 2021
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
India says goodbye to an icon and an inspiration. Your legacy will keep guiding and inspiring generations of sportsperson. Rest in peace, sir. #MilkhaSinghJi
— Rishabh Pant (@RishabhPant17) June 19, 2021
I’ve always been & forever will be a fan of Milkha Singhji, who in his lifetime sped like the wind. Stories of the Flying Sikh are a part of Indian folklore. What a monumental loss. RIP #MilkhaSinghJi 🙏🏼
— Ajay Devgn (@ajaydevgn) June 19, 2021