30 days after he contracted the Covid-19 virus and five days after the demise of his wife 85-year-old Nirmal Milkha Singh, Flying Sikh 91-year-old Milkha Singh breathed his last at PGIMER on Friday night. The 1958 Commonwealth Games champion and 1960 Rome Olympian had contracted the virus on May 20 after one of their family cooks tested positive and was admitted to a private Mohali hospital on May 24. Singh had been discharged on May 30 before he was admitted to the Covid ward in the Nehru Hospital Extension at PGIMER on June 3 due to dipping oxygen levels. The former Indian athlete had tested negative for Covid-19 on Thursday earlier this week and was shifted from the Covid ICU to the medical ICU at PGIMER.
“Dad just passed away,” Singh’s son Jeev Milkha Singh told The Indian Express.
Earlier in the day, after reports of Singh’s deteriorating health surfaced, his son Jeev Milkha Singh had confirmed to The Indian Express that his father’s health is not well. ‘Yes, dad is not well,” Jeev had told The Indian Express on Friday afternoon.
Singh, who was born in Gobindpura now in present-day Pakistan on November 30, 1928 as per school records, had become the first Indian athlete to win gold in the then British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958, a record which stood for more than 50 years when Krishna Poonia won the gold in discus throw event in 2010 CWG at Delhi. Singh had emerged as the winner in the 400m final at Cardiff edging out Malcolm Spence of South Africa with a timing of 46.6 seconds. While Singh had also won four Asian Games gold medals including the 200m and 400m wins in the 1956 Asian Games and 400m and 4X400m relay in 1962 Asian Games, Singh’s biggest moment of glory or miss came in the 1960 Rome Olympics where he finished fourth in the 400m final at the Rome Olympic Stadium to miss out on the bronze medal in a photo-finish to Spence. Singh’s then-national record timing of 45.6 seconds at Rome was broken by Paramjeet Singh later in 1998.
Singh is survived by three daughters Dr Mona Singh, Aleeza Grover, Sonia Sanwalka and son Jeev Milkha Singh. Golfer Jeev, who is a 14-time international winner, too is a Padma Shri awardee like his father and had been coordinating with the medical staff at PGIMER along with his elder sister Dr Mona Singh since last month.
In 2019, Singh had celebrated his 90th birthday with family members at his Sector 8 residence in Chandigarh. “It’s a special day for me and the whole family but celebrations can wait. The reason I am here to see this day is my fitness regime and that’s what I followed at the start of the day. It’s like a prayer for na athlete like me and I believe that as long a person is fit, he remains active. When I am not playing golf, I go for a jog for more than two Kms at Sukhna Lake and I want people to be passionate about their fitness. Whether it is working or senior citizens, they need to take ten minutes of physical exercise daily at home or park and I am glad that I can motivate people at this age too for fitness,” Singh had said while talking with The Indian Express on his 90th birthday.
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