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Why was Milkha Singh called the Flying Sikh?

A four-time Asian champion, Milkha Singh, was nicknamed the Flying Sikh. Why?

Milkha Singh (Source: ddsportschannel/ Twitter)

Milkha Singh (Source: ddsportschannel/ Twitter)


Abhijit Nair

Updated: 20 Jun 2021 4:04 AM GMT

Indian athletics legend Milkha Singh passed away on Friday night at a hospital following a long bout with the deadly covid-19. His wife, Nirmal Saini, too, had succumbed to the virus last Sunday.

Singh was one of the earliest superstars for India in sports. Having migrated from Pakistan to India during the partition of the two countries into two, Singh rose to fame after he joined the Indian Army and started competing in athletics.

A four-time Asian champion, Milkha Singh, was nicknamed the Flying Sikh. Why?

The first major international competition for Singh was the 1956 Melbourne Games. Even though he did not go past the heats at Australia, he gained some very valuable experiences.

It was the year 1958 which turned his life around. After setting national records in the 200m and 400m sprints at the National Games, Singh went on to clinch a gold medal at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff before being crowned the 200m and 400m Asian Champion during the Asian Games in Tokyo that same year.

Singh had turned into a national hero!

But, the title of the Flying Sikh came a couple of years later in the year 1960. The then Pakistan President, Ayub Khan, had invited Indian athletes for an Indo-Pak sports meet in Lahore.

Milkha Singh did not wish to go back to Pakistan – a country which he had left with some very brutal and terrible memories with. But, he went as the leader of the Indian contingent on the insistence of the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In Lahore, Milkha Singh was to face off against Pakistan's Abdul Khaliq, who was considered to be one of the fastest in the world in the 200m sprint. It was a matter of national pride. Losing to Pakistan was not an option, and there was a lot of pressure.

But on the race day, the pressure did not seem to matter for Milkha Singh as he came up with the trumps and defeated Khaliq easily.

After being impressed with his run, Ayub Khan, during the medal ceremony, nicknamed Milkha Singh as the Flying Sikh.

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