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Commonwealth Games

When Milkha Singh bagged India's first Commonwealth Games gold medal

Defeating Malcom Clive Spence by a mere 0.3 seconds, Milkha Singh secured the first-ever gold for India at the 1958 Commonwealth Games.

Milkha Singh

Milkha Singh (Source: Times of India)


Palash Srivastava

Updated: 30 Jun 2022 7:04 AM GMT

In athletics, India was not a popular name back in the 1950s. The fewer participation and lack of medals at global games were the prime reasons for India being treated as nothing on the world stages of sports.

Among all the chaos of partition and economical crisis in India, Milkha Singh slowly started gaining popularity at national games in India.

Before the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games, Milkha Singh had broken national records in 200m and 400m races at National games, Cuttack. He also secured 2 gold medals at the Asian Games in the same year.

The Commonwealth Games was the biggest challenge for him since it contained world-class athletes from Australia, England, Canada, Uganda, Kenya, and Jamaica.

It also had the participation of the then world record holder from South Africa, Malcolm Spence, who had finished at sixth position in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where Milka Singh could not even go past the heats.

Historic run at Cardiff

Despite all odds, Milkha Singh qualified along with other six racers for the then 440 yards final at Cardiff, 1958. This was a huge moment for Milkha Singh and the nation as it was believed for the very first time that India will quench its thirst for the long-awaited medal at the Commonwealth games this year.

The final race had world-class sprinter Malcolm Spence in the second lane while Milkha Singh was allotted the fifth lane. Those days, positions were decided through random picking from the bag before the start of games.

Milkha Singh along with his coach devised a strategy the night before the finals against Malcolm Spence. They decided to use Milkha's stamina against the careful Spence.

The strategy was based on the fact that sprinting from beginning to end with the full-throttle will not be a problem for Milkha because of the stamina reserve he had.

As planned, Milkha ran with his full might on the day of the finals after reciting his prayers and won the historic race by defeating Malcolm Spence with a mere margin of 0.3 seconds.

This historic run in Cardiff by Milkha Singh made him the first-ever athlete to add the Gold medal to the Indian medal tally at the Commonwealth Games.

However, Malcom Spence would go on to break millions of Indian hearts two years later at the 1960 Rome Olympics when he edged past Milkha Singh to win the bronze medal in Men's 400m.

Milkha's gold in Cardiff Commonwealth Games was a huge moment for Indian Sports, as it helped gain global recognition among the powerhouse nations like England, Canada, Uruguay, and Jamaica.

Upon the great performance by Milka Singh, the then Prime minister - Jawaharlal Nehru, declared a day's holiday in India.

India has, so far, won 28 medals in athletics across different events at the Commonwealth Games. It includes 5 gold, 10 silver, and 13 bronze. India is placed in 15th position overall in the all-time medal tally of athletics at CWG.

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