Top five astonishing records of Indian legend Milkha Singh

Gaurav Singh

June 19 2021
athletes milkha singh

The former athlete created many records during his career.

Milkha Singh is widely considered as one of the greatest athletes that India has ever produced. Born in the Punjab Province of British India, he overcame several obstacles to achieve great success.

As a child, he suffered agony during the Partition of India. Milkha Singh was a retired Honorary Captain of the Indian Army and won several laurels for the country in his career.

He was independent India’s first sporting superstar and earned the nickname ‘The Flying Sikh’. Let’s take a look at five of his greatest records.

5. First Indian athlete to participate in three successive Olympic Games

His first appearance in the quadrennial event came in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He took part in the men’s 200m and 400m races. This was followed by a historic performance four years later at the 1960 Rome Olympics. The sprinter narrowly missed out on a podium place in the 400m event.

Singh’s swansong on the grandest stage came in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. This time he was a part of the 4X400m Indian relay team. In doing so, he became the first-ever Indian athlete to appear in three successive Olympic Games.

4. First Indian to win Gold in 400m in Asian Games

Milkha Singh lived his life to the fullest

The legendary sprinter first came into the limelight after setting records in the 200m and 400m in the 1958 National Games in Cuttack. At the third Asian Games in 1958 held in Tokyo, Milkha Singh scripted history. He became the first-ever Indian to win a Gold medal in the 400m event. The sprinter also stood on top of the podium after the 200m event. That made him only the second Indian to win the event, after Lavy Pinto in 1951.

His Asian Games exploits continued in the following edition. At the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, he bagged two more Gold medals. He did not only defend his 400m title successfully, but also recorded a 4X400m relay triumph. Therefore, Milkha Singh showed his versatility across several events and went onto become one of the finest athletes of his era.

3. First Indian athlete to win an individual Gold in Commonwealth Games

The Indian athlete travelled to Cardiff in a confident mood ahead of the 1958 Commonwealth Games. He participated in the 400m event, which was known as men’s 440 yards in the competition. Singh won numerous plaudits for his breathtaking performances at the Cardiff Arms Park.

In the heats, he finished level with Kenya’s Samuel Chemweno to advance to the quarter-finals. Later, Milkha Singh saw off a strong challenge from John MacIsaac of Scotland. In the semi-finals, he again finished on top of his section, level with John Salisbury of England.

The sprinter saved his best for the last. In the final race, he recorded a timing of 46.71 seconds, to finish well ahead of South African Malcolm Spence and became the first-ever Indian athlete to win an individual Gold in the Commonwealth Games. His achievement was unmatched for 56 years until Vikas Gowda won Gold in discus throwing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

2. Fourth place finish in Rome Olympics

Milkha Singh arrived in Rome as one of the favourites in the 400m event. He took an early lead but at around the 250m mark, he made the fatal mistake of slowing down. In doing so, Otis Davis and Carl Kaufmann overtook him for the first and second positions.

Milkha Singh and Malcolm Spence also broke the pre-Games Olympic record. Unfortunately, Singh was the fourth man in the same race to do so. It ultimately needed a photo-finish to determine the Bronze medal winner, with the Indian athlete losing out by a heart-wrenching 0.1 second.

One of India’s finest ever athlete thus had to leave Rome empty-handed. However, his spectacular timing of 45.73 seconds was an Indian record. It was in fact India’s oldest national record for several years. Finally, after a period of 38 years, Paramjeet Singh broke it in the Indian National Open Athletics Meet in Kolkata.  

1. First athlete to win Padma Shri award

The Government of India has duly recognized Singh’s efforts. In 1959, he became the first-ever athlete and the third sportsperson to be conferred the prestigious Padma Shri award, the fourth-highest civilian award in India. Later, his son Jeev Milkha Singh was also awarded the prestigious award in 2007 – making them the first father-son duo in Indian sporting history to win the honour.

He passed away on June 18, 2021 at the age of 91 due to COVID-19 related complications. His achievements will continue to inspire Indian athletes forever.

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