Recalling the declaration of a national holiday by then Prime Minister, late Jawaharlal Nehru, when Milkha Singh defeated Pak champion Abdul Khaliq in Lahore in 1960, the CM said emotionally that he wished he could have also declared a national holiday today.
Country’s legendary sprinter Milkha Singh, who lost the life’s battle to Covid-19, had a memorable connection to Odisha and his athletic record feat in Cuttack in 1958 was a prelude to the ‘Flying Sikh’ becoming the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Singh, who had narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal, finishing fourth at the 400m final of the 1960 Rome Games, had a record-shattering feat in Cuttack in 1968 in the 200 metres and 400 metres race in the National Games.
“1958 was a glorious one for me; one that I firmly believe was the year of my destiny. My coach was an American called Dr Howard, who taught me an advanced technique of taking a start. Once again, there was the usual cyclone of events”, Singh wrote in his autobiography “The Race of My Life”.
My demanding routine had brought the expected results and I was a running machine, breaking the records I had set the previous year – clocking 46.2 seconds for 400 meters and 21.2 seconds for 200 meters – at the National Games held at the Barabati stadium in Cuttack, Singh had stated in his autobiography.
“Other runners lagged far behind me. Seemingly, I had broken the previous Asian record in 400 meters, but I found my new record hard to believe and requested the National Games organizing committee to measure the track again. They did so and I was assured that my timings were correct”, according to the autobiographical account of India’s first sporting icon and superstar.