Milkha Singh, the legendary Indian athlete, and Asian gold medalist, popularly known as ‘Flying Singh’, has died off a covid infection at the age of 91. His wife Nirmal Milkha Singh, a former Indian volleyball captain, had also breathed her last after suffering from COVID-19 and battling the virus for more than 19 days at a Mohali hospital.
The nonagenarian was yet to get jabbed for Covid-19, and on testing positive on May 19, he had told this correspondent over the telephone, ‘It’s just a matter of time, I will be back soon and get myself vaccinated.”But destiny had something else written for him, as he passed away exactly after a month.
Milkha died at Chandigarh’s PGIMER hospital, less than a week after he lost his wife Nirmal Kaur, a former national volleyball captain, to the same ailment. It is sad to lose the couple within a week.
“Nimmi is a devoted wife and mother. I am still amazed by how efficiently she manages her personal and professional life without letting either of them suffer,” writes Milkha Singh about his wife Nirmal Kaur in the chapter The jewels in my crown in his autobiography The Race of My Life released in 2013. He was 91 and is survived by his golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh and three daughters.
“We may not have seen you compete, but every time we ran fast as kids, we ran ‘like Milkha Singh’,” India’s football captain Sunil Chhetri summed up what ‘The Flying Sikh’ meant to the nation, which mourned the end of an era following the nonagenarian sprint icon’s death.
His lightning-quick timing at the Italian capital held the national record for 38 years. Milkha also represented India in the 1956 and 1964 Olympics and was bestowed the prestigious Padma Shri award in 1959, a fitting felicitation for his incredible sporting achievements.
“It is with extreme sadness that we would like to inform you that Milkha Singh Ji passed away at 11.30 pm. on the 18th of June 2021,” his family announced in a statement.
“He fought hard but God has his ways and it was perhaps true love and companionship that both our mother Nirmal ji and now Dad have passed away in a matter of 5 days,” the statement further added.
He “was treated for Covid there till 13th June when after putting up a valiant battle with Covid, Milkha Singh Ji tested negative,” the hospital said in a statement.
“However, due to post-Covid complications, he was shifted out of Covid Hospital to medical ICU. But despite best of the efforts by the medical team, Milkha Singh ji could not be retrieved from his critical condition and after a brave fight, he left for his heavenly abode at 11.30 pm on 18th June 2021 here at PGIMER,” the statement added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of the athlete and tweeted: “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 him to millions. Anguished by his passing away.”
“I had spoken to Shri Milkha Singh Ji just a few days ago. Little did I know that it would be our last conversation. Several budding athletes will derive strength from his life journey. My condolences to his family and many admirers all over the world,” he added.
One of India’s greatest cricketers, Sachin Tendulkar, said Milkha’s legend will live on. “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,” Tendulkar tweeted.