India's 1951 Asian Games marathon bronze medal winner and 1952 Olympian Surat Singh Mathur has died of COVID-19 here. He was 90. "My uncle passed away on Friday due to COVID-19. He was an Olympian and also a medal winner in the first Asian Games," his nephew Anil Mathur told PTI.
"He is our Hall of Fame athlete. Rest in peace sir. Thank you for making #India proud," the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) said in a tweet. Mathur is the first athlete from independent India to complete an Olympic marathon race, at the 1952 Helsinki Games.
Though Chhota Singh was the first runner from independent India to take part in an Olympic marathon event in the 1948 London Games, he could not finish the race. But Mathur completed his marathon race in Helsinki, finishing 52nd in 2 hours 58 minutes 9.2 seconds. He was just 22 then.
In the inaugural Asian Games in 1951 in Delhi, Chhota Singh won the gold while Mathur took the bronze medal. The Delhi-based Mathur beat his rival Chhota Singh in the 1954 National Championships in Delhi with a personal best time of 2:48:06.6
Besides the 1951 Asian Games bronze, Mathur won two gold, one silver and one bronze in the National Championships during his short stint at the top. After retirement, Mathur led a quiet life at Majri Karala village in north-western Delhi.
He was part of two Olympic Games torch relays, four decades apart, in Delhi. Having served as a headmaster, Mathur became a special coach in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 1977. He was honoured by the Olympic Council of Asia during the inauguration of its headquarters in Kuwait City in 2009.