I was a zero who became a hero: Milkha Singh | entertainment | Hindustan Times
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I was a zero who became a hero: Milkha Singh

The shoes Milkha Singh wore during the 400-metre sprint in the 1960 Rome Olympics will go under the hammer at Equation 2012—An Auction for Equality. The money will go to Rahul Bose’s charity, The Foundation.

entertainment Updated: Feb 10, 2012 12:57 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

On Saturday, the shoes Milkha Singh wore during the 400-metre sprint in the 1960 Rome Olympics will go under the hammer at Equation 2012—An Auction for Equality. The money will go to Rahul Bose’s charity, The Foundation. The legendary athlete, who’s in the city for the event, admits he wouldn’t have parted with this precious pair for even Rs 10 crore, but decided to donate them free to a cause.

He’s the only sportsperson to have run 80 international races, acing 77, breaking the Olympic record in Rome, but missing out on a medal by 0.1 second. “Before I die, I want an Indian athlete to bring back the medal that slipped through my hands. I want to see the tricolour fly high and hear the National Anthem,” says the Flying Sikh, frankly admitting that he doesn’t expect to see this happen at the London Olympics.

“Only discus thrower Krishna Poonia holds hope in the track-and-field. In ’84, PT Usha lost the bronze in the 400-m hurdles by 1/100th. She was a good runner and might have won four years later after fours golds and a silver in the ’86 Asiads, but she quit, heart-broken.”

The 76-year-old Padma Sri is discouraged by the low standard of sports in India. “We had no coaches or stadiums and ran barefoot. Now we have about 40,000 coaches, a budget of crores, but lack sincerity and determination. We need to tap and train talent at the school level and participate in more international events,” he says.

Singh is saddened by the recent dope scandal that has lead to six athletes being suspended: “At camps, I always ask kids to stay away from drugs that will ruin them, their family and the country.”

Next month, Rakyesh Om Prakash Mehra’s biopic, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, flags off with Farhan Akhtar. “If made the way I want, it could be an inspiration to sports aspirants across the country. I was a zero who became a hero, and almost bagged an Olympic medal for the country,” he says. “I met Farhan a few days ago and told him he’d have to work hard. Milkha ban gaye ho, ab Milkha ban ke dikhana hai (You’ve been cast as Milkha, now you have to become Milkha).”