Blog by: Suryakant Tripathi.
Milkha Singh first came into the athletics scene at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where he took part in the 200m and 400m category, but the real turning point in his career, came not on the running track but off it, when he got an opportunity to meet Charles Jenkins, who won the 400m event at those Games.
2 years later, a rejuvenated and much-improved Milkha set records in the 200m and 400m categories at the National Games, that were held in Cuttack and then went on to win the Gold at the Asian Games that year in Tokyo.
The year 1958 became better for him when he won independent India’s first ever Commonwealth Games Gold in the 400m event with a timing of 46.6 seconds.
However, heartbreak for Milkha came 2 years later at the Rome Olympics, where, despite putting in an exceptional performance in the 400m, he missed out an Olympic medal by the skin of his teeth. His performance in the race can be best described by a statement in an Australian newspaper in 2006, that read,
“Milkha Singh is the only Indian to have broken an Olympic track record. Unfortunately he was the fourth man to do so in the same race”
Milkha though didn’t let that defeat deter him one bit as he went on to went on win Golds in the 400m and the 4x400m relay. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Milkha entered to compete in the 400m, 4x100m and 4x 400m events, but didn’t participate in the first 2 events and in the 4x400m relay team event finished fourth in the heat stages, along with Makhan Singh, Amrit Pal and Ajmer Singh and they were eliminated at the heat stage.
Following his win over Abdul Khaliq in a race in 1960, Pakistan’s General Ayub Khan called Milkha The Flying Sikh in his post match comments and that nickname has stuck with the athlete ever since.