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Milkha Singh, Legendary Indian Sprinter, Dies at 91 due to Covid-19

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Photo Credit - Milkha Singh at Chandigarh Golf Club, By Sanyam Bahga, Licensed Under CC Attribution 3.0, Cropped, Resized

Milkha Singh, the legendary Indian athlete, died of Covid-19 complications on Friday at a Chandigarh hospital, following a month-long battle with the virus, according to a PTI report published on Outlook.

He was 91.

The news of the Padma Shri awardee’s death comes less than a week after his wife and former national volleyball captain, Nirmal Kaur, succumbed to the coronavirus at a private hospital in Mohali on June 13.

According to the PTI report, Singh had contacted the virus in May. On June 3, the late sprinter was admitted to PGIMER after his oxygen levels began to drop at his home. He had previously undergone treatment at Fortis hospital at Mohali for a week.

On Wednesday, he had tested negative for the virus when he was shifted to the general ICU unit at PGIMER. While Singh was said to be “stable” before Thursday evening, his condition turned worse on Friday after he developed a fever and his oxygen saturation levels dipped.

A family spokesperson said to PTI, “He breathed his last at 11.30 pm.”

Popularly known as ‘The Flying Sikh’, Milkha Singh was a four-time Asian Games gold-medallist. He was the only athlete to win a gold medal in the 400m at the Asian Games as well the Commonwealth Games. He represented India in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, the 1960 Olympics in Rome, and also the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, he finished fourth in the 400m final. His timing at the Italian capital remained the national record for 38 years until Paramjeet Singh broke it in 1998.

Credits: Screenshots of Anil Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar tweets

In 2013, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra helmed a biopic on the sprinter’s life titled Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, starring Farhan Akhtar in the titular role. The film went on to win several awards including Best Popular Film at the National Film Awards.

Akhtar condoled the death of Singh and shared an emotional note on Twitter. “A part of me is still refusing to accept that you are no more. Maybe it’s the stubborn side I inherited from you…the side that when it sets its mind on something, just never gives up,” he wrote.

Actor Anil Kapoor, while reminiscing of the time he was invited by Singh for a meal, said that he was an “incredible sportsman, phenomenal host, and above all, an amazing human being.”

Several others from the film fraternity, including actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shah Rukh Khan, and Amitabh Bachchan condoled the death of the late sprinter. Sportspersons and politicians too expressed their grief over the loss of Singh.

On Friday, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced that the late athlete will be given a state funeral by the Punjab government and the state will observe a day of mourning as a mark of respect.

Singh is survived by his son and golfer, Jeev Milkha Singh, and three daughters.

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