Flying Sikh- Milkha Singh Biography

Everything About India’s First Sporting Superstar Milkha Singh – ‘A Running Machine’

Renu Dahiya Renu Dahiya posted on Monday, May 16th, 2022

The late great Milkha Singh, independent India’s first individual sports icon, dominated the Indian track for many years with his speed and achievements. He made his motherland proud by creating multiple records and winning several gold medals. He became the first athlete in India to win an individual gold medal in the Commonwealth Games, and at his request, former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru declared a national holiday on his achievement. 

Milkha Singh’s story is one of hope and inspiration. For him, the track was like an open book in which he found the purpose of his life. And, yes after witnessing so many horrible experiences and years of struggle, what a life he made for himself. He made a special place in the hearts of countless Indians.  Let’s take a look at numerous anecdotes about Padam Shri awardee Milkha Singh’s life and career as an athlete.

Basic Details About Milkha Singh 

Real NameMilkha Singh
Also Known asThe Flying Sikh
ProfessionAthlete, Director of Sports-Punjab
Milkha Singh Army RankHonorary Captain of the Indian Army
Date of Birth20 November 1929
BirthplaceGovindpura, Punjab, British India (Now in Punjab, Pakistan)
Date of Death18 June 2021
Place of DeathPGIMER, Chandigarh 
Milkha Singh Age (at the time of death)91 years
HobbiesPlaying Golf, Doing Work-outs
Height5’10 (178 cm)
Weight70 kg (154 lbs)

Milkha Singh’s Childhood

Milkha Singh was born on 20 November 1929 (as per official records) into a Sikh Rathore Rajput family in Govindpura, Punjab, which is now a part of Pakistan. He was one of 15 siblings, eight of them died before the partition of India. He has studied up to the 5th standard at a village school in Pakistan. Milkha has lost his parents, a brother, and two sisters in the violence during the partition before his very eyes.  His father’s last words as he lay dying were “Bhaag Milkha” [run for your like Milkha]. 

Milkha escaped to Delhi in 1947 as Hindus and Sikhs were targeted and killed in Punjab. Her married sister Iswar Kaur has helped him there. He was heartbroken after losing his parents and siblings. Then, due to some bad company, he became a robber. But, with the help of his elder brother and sister, he got himself out of that company and thought of joining the Indian army.

Milkha Singh’s Family

Milkha Singh met his wife Nirmal Kaur for the very first time in 1955. Nirmal was the captain of the Indian Women’s Volleyball team. They got married in the year 1962. The couple has three daughters and one son named Dr. Mona Singh, Aleeza Grover, Sonia Sanwalka, and Jeev Milkha Singh respectively. His son Jeev Milkha Singh is a famous Indian Golfer. 

The couple adopted Gurbinder seven years old son of an Indian soldier Havildar Bikram Singh, who died in the battle of Tiger Hill. They have supported Gurbinder’s education till High school. 

Career Highlights Of Milkha Singh Flying Sikh

  • Indian athlete Milkha Singh tried to join the Indian army thrice but was rejected. Finally, in his fourth attempt, he got selected. First, he was posted to Srinagar and from there he was sent to the Electrical Mechanical Engineering Centre in Secunderabad in 1951. And, that’s where he was introduced to athletics. 
  • He had the habit of running since childhood, he used to run 10 km to reach his school. Hawaldar Gurdev Singh persuaded him to run a cross-country race, as a part of military training. And, his early habit of running helped him to get selected by the Indian army for special training in athletics. 
  • During this special training for athletics, he realized his sprinting abilities. To become the best, he started training for almost 5-6 hours daily. He trained himself in difficult terrains like the hills, against a meter gauge train and the sands on the bank of rivers. 
  • He was selected for the 200m and 400m races in the Melbourne Olympics Games 1956, where he represented India. Due to poor training methods and less experience, he could not progress beyond the initial stage. But Charles Jenkins, 400m champion at the event, gave him proper information about the training methods.
  • In 1958, he participated in the National Games of India which was held in Cuttack. He broke the 200m and 400m national records in this event. Milkha Singh won 400m race (Gold Medal) at the Commonwealth Games, and become the first male Indian to have won a gold medal in the individual athletics category at those games. This was considered one of his biggest achievements. 
  • In 1960, Milkha Singh participated in the Olympic Games in which everyone’s eye was on him. He scored the fourth position in the 400m race which was eventually won by the American athlete Otis Davis. This defeat in the Olympics is something that haunts one of the great Indian athletes even today. 
  • And, during his late career, he became the Director of Sports in the Punjab Ministry of Education. He got retirement from this post in 1998. 
  • In 2003, he founded the Milkha Singh Charitable Trust intending to help needy sportspersons. 

Awards & Achievements of Milkha Singh

  • Won Gold Medal at Asian Games in 200m race – 1958
  • Won Gold Medal at Asian Games in 400m race – 1958
  • Won Gold Medal at Commonwealth Games in 440 yards race – 1958
  • Honored with Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, for his achievements in sports – 1959
  •  Won Gold Medal at Asian Games in 400m race – 1962
  • Won Gold Medal at Asian Games in 4 x 400m relay race – 1962
  • Won Silver Medal at Calcutta National Games in 400m race – 1964

How did Indian Athlete Milkha Singh Get The Title “The Flying Sikh”?

  • In 1958, Milkha Singh won the gold medal at Asian Games in Tokyo by beating the Pakistani athlete Abdul Khaliq. That’s why he got an invitation from Pakistan in 1960 to participate in another race. Due to some horrific memories and experiences of the partition, Milkha decided not to go to Pakistan. 
  • The former Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru convinced him to get over his past and go to Pakistan to show his abilities to the whole world. More than 7000 people had gathered in the stadium to watch the race between Milkha Singh and Abdul Khaliq. Once again our running star Milkha Singh defeated Abdul Khaliq and inscribed his name with golden letters on everyone’s heart.
  • President of Pakistan at the time, General Ayub Khan mesmerized by the Indian athlete Milkha Singh’s performance and complimented him by saying that he did not run, but flew. There, he honored Milkha with the sobriquet of “The Flying Sikh”.

Famous Indian Sprinter Milkha Singh’s Death 

Milkha Singh, one of the famous athletes from India, died from Covid-19-related complications on 18 June 2021 (Aged 91) in PGIMER, Chandigarh. His wife Nirmal Kaur also died of Covid earlier this week (on 13 June 2021). India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes to the star athlete by tweeting through their official Twitter account.

We have lost India’s first sporting superstar, but his legacy will surely continue to live on and provide motivation and inspiration to many youngsters and future athletes.  

10 Lesser Known Facts About Milkha Singh

  1. There is no solid evidence regarding Milkha’s date and place of birth. But, according to some official reports, he was born in Govindpura Village of Muzaffargard City in British India. (Now Muzaffargarh District, Pakistan).
  2. Milkha had no idea when he was born. But, in his autobiography ‘The Race of My Life’ he mentioned that he must have been around 15 years old at the time of India’s partition. 
  3. While in the army, Mikha sometimes trained himself so hard that he used to spit blood.
  4. He got promoted from a Sepoy to Junior Commissioned Officer in the army after his huge success in the 1958 Asian Games.
  5. To make Milkha’s biopic ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, he accepted only INR 1 from film producer Rakeysh Omprakash. 
  6. In 1956, he was eliminated in the first round of the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. 
  7. When Milkha Singh was honored with the most prestigious Arjuna Award in 2001, he resued to accept it saying it came “40 years too late”. 
  8. In search of work, Milkha often visited the local Indian army camps and at times, he would often polish shoes to get some money and food. 
  9. After seeing his headgear and long beard, he became extremely popular during the Rome Olympics in 1960. Romans thought he was a saint and were amazed by the fact that how a saint managed to run so fast. 
  10.  Milkha Singh donated all of his medals to the country which are now displayed at a museum in Patiala. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Did Milkha Singh win in the Tokyo Asian Games?

Ans: Yes, Milkha Singh won a gold medal in the Tokyo Asian Games in the category of 200m race. 

Q: Which is the biggest achievement in Milkha Singh’s career?

Ans: The biggest achievement of Milkha Singh’s career is when he won a gold medal in the 1958 Commonwealth Games by clocking 46.6 seconds, and created a national record. 

Q: Is Jeev Milkha Singh related to India’s Flying Sikh Milkha Singh?

Ans: Yes, India’s star golfer Jeev Milkha Singh is the son of Milkha Singh. 

Q: Who wrote a biography of Milkha Singh?

Ans: The biography of Milkha Singh “The Race of My Life’ has been written by Milkha Singh and his daughter Sonia Sanwalka. 

Q: What is Milkha Singh house address in Chandigarh?

Ans: The residential address of Milkha Singh in Chandigarh is House No. 725, Sector 8 B, Chandigarh, India.

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