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Milkha Singh Biography

Milkha Singh is a former Indian track and field sprinter. The “Flying Sikh” was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan on 20 November 1929, according to records in Pakistan; whereas other reports say he was born on 8 October 1935. He is the only male athlete of India to win individual athletics Gold in the Commonwealth Games. Milkha Singh was also awarded the Padma Shri Award by the President of India in 1959 for his achievements in sports. Singh is best remembered for his fourth-place finish in the 400 metres final at Olympic Games 1960.

Personal Life

Milkha Singh is married to Nirmal Kaur. She was the former captain of the Indian Women Volleyball team. They have a son, Jeev Milkha Singh, who has gone on to become a top-ranking international professional golfer.


Milkha Singh tried to enroll in the army, but was rejected thrice. He was finally able to join in the army’s electrical mechanical engineering branch in 1952. Once in the armed forces, his coach Havildar Gurdev Singh inspired him. He worked very hard on his practice. He came into the limelight during the National Games at Patiala in 1956. In 1958, he broke the 200 metres and 400 meters records in the National Games at Cuttack.

His greatest and probably the saddest moment came when he finished fourth in a photo finish at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He also represented the country in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He held the Olympic 400 m record in the 1960 Rome Olympics, besides winning the Gold medal in the 1958 Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games in 1958 (in the 200m & 400 m categories) and the Asian Games in 1962 (in 200 m category).

It was a race in Pakistan in 1962, where he defeated Abdul Khaliq, the winner of the 100 metres gold at the Tokyo Asian Games, where he was christened the ‘The Flying Sikh” by the Pakistani President Ayub Khan.

Later Life

In recognition of Singh’s successes in the 1958 Asian Games, he was promoted from the rank of sepoy to junior commissioned officer. He eventually became the Director of Sports in the Punjab Ministry of Education. He retired in 1998. Singh’s medals were donated to the country. Initially all of those were displayed at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, but later they were shifted to a sports museum in Patiala. At the sports museum, his pair of shoes are displayed, which he wore in Rome. In 2012, Rahul Bose organised a charity auction where Singh donated the pair of Adidas shoes that he wore in the 1960 400m final.

In Recent Media

Milkha Singh’s life story was portrayed in a biographical film, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, which was directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and starred Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor. When asked Milkha Singh why he allowed a film to be made on his life, he said that the film should be an inspiration to the youngsters and he himself would watch the film and see his life’s events have been depicted correctly or not. He wanted youngsters to watch this movie and join athletics, making India proud by winning medals at the world level.

Records, Awards and Honours

  • 1st 1958 Asian Games in 200 m
  • 1st 1958 Asian Games in 400 m
  • 1st 1958 Commonwealth Games in 440 yards
  • Padma Shri in 1959
  • 1st 1962 Asian Games in 400 m
  • 1st 1962 Asian Games in 4 x 400 m relay
  • 2nd 1964 Calcutta National Games in 400 m