Milkha Singh also known as The Flying Sikh is a former Indian track and field sprinter. He is the only Indian male athlete to win an individual athletics Gold in Commonwealth Games. He has won the gold medal at the 1958 Asian Games in the 200 meter and 400 meter in the running race category. He represented India in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour, in recognition of his sporting achievements. In 2008, journalist Rohit Brijnath described Singh as “the finest athlete India has ever produced”.
Milkha Singh was born on the 8 October 1935 at Lyallpur Punjab, British India and had a very difficult childhood when he saw his parents being killed during the Indo-Pak partition Massacre. He used to walk barefoot 10 km from his village to a school in Kot Addu tehsil. At the age of 12 he migrated to India. He tried to get into the Army 3 times, but was rejected. Finally, his brother Malkhan Singh helped him get into the Electrical Mechanical Engineering branch of the Army in 1952 and it was there that he participated at the first sports meet. Post retirement, Milkha Singh holds the appointment of Director of Sports in Punjab. His life story was the basis of a biographical film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, directed by Rakeysh Mehra and starred Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor.
Under the guidance of his mentor Havaldar Gurdev Singh, Milkha began training hard and harder at the Army to become an Athlete. After winning both the events at the National Games 1956 held at Patiala, he went on to break the 200m and 400m records in the National Games 1958, held at Cuttack. He clocked 46.1m in 400m at National Games 1960 that was considered to be a World class performance of that time. But, his best was still to come. Milkha Singh represented the nation in the Melbourne Olympic Games 1956, his first Olympic event. Although he couldn’t fare quite well at the event being less experienced at that time, he learnt a lot from the competition to prepare himself well for the future meets.
Name : Milkha Singh
Other names : Flying Sikh
Birth place : Lyallpur, Punjab, British India
Date of Birth (Birthday) : 17 October 1935
Age : 78 years
Height : 5’8″
Religion : Sikh
Known for : Padma Shri
Spouse : Nirmal Kaur
Son : Jeev Milkha Singh
Employer : Retired formerly of the Indian Army and Government of Punjab, India
Occupation : Track and field athlete
Milkha Singh has lost his parents in the riots that followed the Indo-Pak partition. He saw his parents and relatives being killed in front of his eyes. He has 15 siblings, who were all killed in a war. He is married to former captain of Indian Women Volleyball team, Nirmal Kaur. The couple has three daughters and has a son Jeev Milkha Singh who is a Professional golfer. In 1999, they adopted the seven years old son of Havildar Bikram Singh, who had died in the Battle of Tiger Hill.
Milkha Singh Biopic
Bollywood movie Bhaag Milka Bhaag was based on the legendary athlete, Milkha Singh. The movie proved to be a mesmerising and inspiring experience for everyone. The film starts in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, where a coach said “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” and the story is taken back to the memories of the childhood days of a young boy which haunted him, resulted in him dropping to fourth. The success of the movie shows that the Indian audiences appreciate stories of hope and grit.
Today the younger generation knows more about Milkha Singh the ‘Flying Sikh’ about whom earlier not much was known to the youngsters except for his name. The movie has encouraged sports among the youngsters and the will to pursue it as a career. The Maharashtra Government has waved of the entertainment tax of the movie. The tax exemption valid for the next six months has been granted as the film’s main objective was to promote sports among the youth.
Milkha Singh while escaping the troubles in Punjab, where killings of Hindus and Sikhs were continuing, by moving to Delhi, India. In 1947, he lived for a short time with a married sister and was briefly imprisoned at Tihar jail for travelling on a train without a ticket. His sister, Ishvar sold some jewellery to obtain his release. He sturggled a lot and has gained fame. The best period during Milkha’s career as an Athlete arrived between the year 1958 and 1960. He won Gold Medals in both 200m and 400m events at the Tokyo Asian Games 1958, clocking 21.6 seconds and 47 seconds respectively. At the Cardiff Commonwealth Games held the same year, he improved his 400m timing to 46.16 seconds and grabbed a Gold Medal again.
Awards and Achievements
Gold Medal 1958 Commonwealth Games – 400 m
Gold Medal 1958 Asian Games – 200 m and 400 m
Padma Shri 1959
4th Place 1960 Summer Olympics
Gold Medal 1962 Asian Games