Article by Subhayu Bhadury, The North-Eastern Chronicle
Visual Credits: Prachi Bora
Milkha Singh, the renowned Indian Olympian is known as “The Flying Sikh,” once came up short in a key race. Who won the 400m in the 1962 Kolkata National Games? It was Another Olympian- Makhan Singh. Makhan Singh won gold and silver medals in the Asian Games in Jakarta in 1962 and was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1964.
Let us recall our unsung hero and the legend of the Indian speedster who was paralysed in a sad accident and spent the rest of his life in poverty.
Let’s know more about Makhan Singh!
Makhan Singh was born in Bathulla village in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district on July 1, 1937. After joining the Indian Army in 1955, Singh became interested in athletics. In 1959, while competing in the Cuttack National Games, he earned his first major competitive athletics medal, a bronze medal.
Singh earned a gold medal in the short sprint and a silver medal in the 300m event at the National Games in Delhi the following year.
Two years later, he achieved the victory that would define his athletic career. The famed “Flying Sikh” had previously lost an Olympic medal in Rome in 1960. Makhan went on to win the 400m event in the 1962 National Games in Kolkata. The next year, Makhan won gold for India at the Asian Games.
He won gold in the 4x400m relay and silver in the quarter-mile race. He went on to represent India at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, competing in the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in the same year.
Makhan’s Olympian Life
The Olympian’s life, on the other hand, was not easy. Singh had to fight to make ends meet even after representing his country in the world’s largest athletic venue. Singh began driving trucks to Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and other locations for pick-up and delivery of commodities after retiring from the Army as a Subedar in 1972.
In 1974, Singh married Salinder Kaur, a 21-year-old woman with whom he had three children: Inderpal Singh, Gurwinder Singh, and Parminder Singh. In 2013, the younger Inderpal and Gurwinder died as a result of sickness and a lack of medical care, while the eldest Parminder was physically challenged.
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It had been over two decades since the star runner was injured in a car accident in 1990, which left him with a broken right leg. He didn’t take the injuries seriously and ended up with gangrene as a result. The limb had to be amputated because Singh was compelled to do so. Worse, the government did not offer any financial assistance.
He was a proud man who refused to accept money from his sister Surjeet Kaur and instead had to borrow money from a rural neighbour to acquire an artificial limb. Singh started a stationery business in Chabbewal village because it became hard for him to drive a truck. He cycled 3 kilometres to get there. Singh died of cardiac arrest at Chabbewal in 2002, when he was 65 years old.