Milkha Singh - The Flying Sikh

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 28, 2022, 7:51

Milkha Singh, also known as the Flying Sikh, was born on October 17, 1935, in Lyallpur, Pakistan [now Faisalabad], and died in Chandigarh, India, on June 18th, 2021. He became an orphan during the Partition of India and emigrated to India in 1947.

Key Facts About the Life of Milkha Singh

  • He won the 200m and 400m sprints at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and both the 200m and 400m dashes at the 1958 Asian Games.
  • He won the Gold medal in the 400-meter race at the Commonwealth Games, and he became India's first athlete to win this.
  • He missed a third place at the 1960 Rome Olympics and lost a bronze medal in 400 meters.
  • He won the 400-meter gold medal and another for the 4x400-meter relay at the 1962 Asian Games.
  • His final Olympic appearance was at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, but he could not win as part of the 4x400 national team.

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Recognition and Awards

Milkha Singh was awarded the Padma Shri Medal in 1959. His daughter, Sonia Sanwalka, also published an autobiography called 'The Race of My Life' in 2013.

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The Later Years of Milkha Singh

Milkha Singh was promoted to Junior Commission Officer after his success at the 1958 Asian Games. He became the Sports Director of the Punjab Ministry of Education.

The Milkha Singh medal was on display at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi but was later moved to the Patiala Sports Museum. He donated the Adidas shoes he wore in 1960 400m final to the 2012 charity auction. The Milkha Singh wax figure, created at Madame Tussauds in London, was unveiled in Chandigarh in September 2017. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and starring Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor, describes the biography of Milkha Singh.

Padma Shri Milkha Singh, known as the Flying Sikh, is the sole athlete to win a gold medal in the 400-meter dash at both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. Milkha Singh set a national record at the 1960 Olympics, finishing fourth at 400 meters in 45.73 seconds. This record remained unbroken for 40 years.

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FAQs on Milkha Singh

Q.1. Who is Milkha Singh?

Milkha Singh was born in 1929 in Pakistan. He did not belong to a very affluent family. During the 1947 division, he became an orphan and emigrated to India.

Q.2. How did Milkha Singh start his career as a sprinter?

Hawaldar Gurudev Singh persuaded him to run a cross-country race in 1951 as part of his military training. Milkha Singh trained hard and was in the limelight at the 1956 national convention in Patiala. He broke the 200- and 400-meter records in the National Game in Cuttack in 1958.

Q.3. Was Milkha Singh married?

Milkha Singh married Nirmar Kaul, a former captain of the Indian volleyball team, in Pathankot on May 5, 1963. The couple had three daughters, Aleeza Grover, Dr Mona Singh, Sonia Sanwolka, and a son Jeev Milkha Singh.

Q.4. How did Milkha Singh die?

Milkha Singh succumbed to COVID-related complications on June 18, 2021, at the age of 91.

Q.5. What are the remarkable achievements of Milkha Singh?

The achievements of Padma Shri Milkha Singh are -

  • 200m 1958 Asian Games Gold
  • 400m 1958 Asian Games Gold
  • 440 yards 1958 Asian Games Gold
  • 400m 1962 Asian Games Gold
  • 4 × 400m Relay 1962 Asian Games Gold
  • 400m 1964 Calcutta National Games Silver

In 1960, he played against Abdul Khaliq in Pakistan and was bestowed the title of the "Flying Sikh" by General Ayub.