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Milkha Singh | The success story of the Flying Sikh



Milkha Singh, popularly known as The Flying Sikh, was a legendary sports icon. He brought many laurels to the nation with his performances. He persevered through hardship and grief from his childhood and became one of the greatest athletes India has produced. His success story has inspired people from all around the world.

Early life

On November 21, 1929, he was born in a Sikh Rathore family in Govindpura, near Muzaffargarh, modern-day Pakistan. During the partition in 1947, he was left homeless. When he was 15 years old, his family was killed due to the riots happening at that time. He saw his parents dying in front of him which took a huge toll on him. The death of his parents and a few of his siblings deeply impacted him. This unfortunate incident displaced him from the place he belonged. After the Partition in 1947, he travelled alone to Delhi and lived with his sister for some time. Milkha had to struggle a lot during his teen years. He even fell into the wrong hands in an effort to earn living.

Milkha Singh and the Indian Army

Singh considered becoming a dacoit but one of his brothers persuaded him to join the Indian Army. After three failed enrolments, Milkha joined the Indian Army in 1952. The Indian Army introduced him to the world of athletics. Singh said in an interview that Army introduced him to the sport and “I came from a remote village, I didn’t know what running was, or the Olympics”. During his childhood, he ran a 10-kilometre distance to and from school, which helped him build stamina at a very young age.

“The Army gave me a second life. For three or four years, after partition, I roamed around doing odd jobs. I always wanted to join the Army and I succeeded on my fourth attempt. It was in the Army that I got a chance to take part in the cross-country run. The Army saw some talent in me and encouraged me. For Southern Command and later for Services, I won a number of races in 200 and 400 meters,” Milkha said.

His journey to success

After showcasing his ability in the Army, he went on to train for national and international games. He became the first Indian male to win a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games at Cardiff in 1958. He also won gold medals in the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games. Singh is best remembered for his 400 meters final at the 1960 Olympic Games. His fourth-place time was the national record for many years. Despite the loss, he did not lose hope and went on to win gold medals representing India in other games. Singh was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, in 1958. In 2013, a biographical film of Singh’s life titled Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was made. The film was widely acclaimed in India and won many awards. Sadly, Singh died on 18 June 2021 due to Covid-19 complications.

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Milkha Singh at 1960 Olympics

Lessons we can learn from his incredible journey

Despite his tragic childhood, Milkha Singh refused to accept defeat and continued to work harder to prove himself. His perseverance, courage, and determination helped him overcome all the obstacles. Perseverance makes you push through your obstacles to reach your goals. Hard work is the key to success. If you want to achieve something, you must fight for it and work hard.

Also read: From rags to riches | The inspirational success story of entertainment mogul Tyler Perry

What was Milkha Singh's record of the 400m race?

45.73 seconds

Who gave Milkha Singh the title 'The Flying Sikh'?

Pakistan’s General Ayub Khan

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