Published: 19th June 2021
Rest In peace Milkha Singh: The 'Flying Sikh' no one could catch
Interestingly, Milkha broke the existing world record of 45.9 sec in Rome, and so the three who finished ahead of him
A glimpse into the stupendous athletics career of legendary Milkha Singh, who passed away on Friday aged 91, can be had from this mind-boggling fact: his 400 metres Indian national record stood for 38 years and the 400m Asian record for 26 years. In 1960 in Rome, he came closest to winning an individual Olympic Games medal as an Indian, in 400m, eventually finishing fourth in a photo finish.
Milkha was one of the favourites to win the 400m gold in Rome. It was probably natural, too, as going into the Olympics, he is said to have won 77 out of 80 races, including the 1958 Commonwealth Games gold in 440 yards. But one shortcoming probably cost Milkha an Olympic medal. He had a habit of looking at his opponents over his shoulder while running races, and when he did the same in Rome it was decisive, though he had led the race until 200m. Later he admitted that he had paid a heavy price for his habit.
Interestingly, Milkha broke the existing world record of 45.9 sec in Rome, and so the three who finished ahead of him. He finished fourth with a time of 45.6 seconds, as per a hand-held device, while an unofficial electronic timer at the games clocked him at 45.73 sec. This has been a point of contention, though. Whatever the reality, Milkha emerged from Rome as the 'Flying Sikh'. A legend was born.
In 1998, Paramjeet Singh broke Milkha's Indian record at a national competition in Kolkata. But Milkha was not satisfied with the procedure of recording athletes' timings in Kolkata. Paramjeet clocked 45.70 secs on a synthetic track while Singh had run on a cinder track in Rome. Much before Paramjeet broke Milkha's record, the legend had offered to give a Rs 2 lakh prize to anyone who broke his 400m record. But when Paramjeet did that, Milkha gave only Rs 1 lakh to him. Milkha later explained that the Rs 2 lakh prize was for breaking the record overseas while Paramjeet said that the legend hadn't clarified that beforehand. That created some friction between the two.
official world golf rankings in 2007.