After a month of battling COVID-19, legendary sprinter Milkha Singh passed away on Friday, 18 June, at the age of 91, his family said in a statement.
Singh breathed his last in Chandigarh’s Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), where he was receiving treatment after being exposed to the virus on 19 May.
Singh passed away at 11.30 pm on Friday, just days after his wife Nirmal Kaur, too, lost the battle to COVID-19 on 13 June.
“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 five days. We are deeply indebted to the doctors at PGI for their valiant efforts and the love and prayers we received from across the world and from yourselves,” the family said in a statement.
The distinguished athlete was discharged from a private hospital on 31 May but had to be readmitted to PGIMER due to receding levels of oxygen. Both Singh and his wife are believed to have caught the virus from a house help.
Milkha Singh: The Legend
Orphaned and forced to flee during the Partition of India, Milkha will go down in history among the greatest performers to have set foot on the track and field. A four-time Asian Games gold medallist and 1958 Commonwealth Games victor, his finest hour was the fourth-place finish in the 400m final at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
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.
Milkha and his daughter, Sonia Sanwalka, co-authored his autobiography, titled The Race of My Life. The book inspired Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the 2013 biographical film depicting Milkha’s tragic childhood in Pakistan and the stint with the Indian Army that propelled him to pursue running and eventually bring laurels to the country.
Singh's wax statue, showcasing his famous take-off posture during his victorious run at the 1958 Commonwealth Games, is placed at the Madame Tussauds museum in New Delhi.
The sprinting sensation walked the talk with his poignant quote: Hard work, dedication and willpower, for a person with these qualities, the sky is the limit.