Milkha Singh was gutted but we were so proud of him: GS Randhawa

GS Randhawa - The Olympian, who finished fifth in 110m in Tokyo four years later, remembers the 1960 400m final where Milkha finished fourth
Indian sprint legend Milkha Singh died of post COVID-19 complications on Friday night. (AP) PREMIUM
Indian sprint legend Milkha Singh died of post COVID-19 complications on Friday night. (AP)
Updated on Jun 19, 2021 07:41 PM IST
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By Shalini Gupta, Chandigarh

Gurbachan Singh Randhawa woke up on Saturday to the news of legendary athlete Milkha Singh’s death. It was like losing an older brother; one to whom he had spoken less than a month ago.

Singh, who died aged 91 in Chandigarh on Friday, was then in home isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

Also read | Milkha Singh: Asia’s most dominant runner at his peak

“He was in the best of spirits and assured me that he would be fine in a few days. He told me that the previous evening he had gone for jogging also. Unfortunately, he and (wife) Nirmal lost the battle to Covid,” said Randhawa, who was Singh’s teammate in the 1960 Rome Olympics and in Tokyo four years later.

Randhawa finished fifth in the 110m hurdles in the 1964 Olympics and won the Asian Games decathlon gold in 1962. At that Asian Games, Singh retained the 400m gold. Randhawa was the first Indian athlete to get the Arjuna award, in 1961. In 2005 he got the Padma Shri.

Also read | “Film on Milkha Singh got Pakistan talking about Abdul Khaliq”

“Milkha paaji will always be remembered for his grit, dedication, will power and hunger to shine. Even though, he could not win the bronze in the Rome Olympics, he inspired India with that stunning, historic effort. A new era began for Indian athletics after Milkha’s performance in Rome,” said Randhawa over the phone from New Delhi

While Rome was Singh’s second Olympics, for Randhawa, who was also a high-jumper, it was the first. Singh was India’s medal hope and Randhawa remembers the excitement and tension of that 400 metres final in Rome.

Also read | The admirer who broke Milkha’s record: Paramjit pays tribute to his role model

“All Indian athletes were sitting in the spectators’ stand egging on Milkha. He was determined to take a medal. His intense face and body language said it all. I had a feeling he would do it. He dashed away with full force and speed and my heart pumped fast. But he missed the bronze by a whisker. He was gutted but we were all proud of Milkha,” said Randhawa, who timed 14.07 seconds in the 1964 Tokyo Games.

“Milkha’s Rome showing excited India Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru too. He got a hero’s welcome. What a life he lived.”

“I don’t regret finishing fifth in the 110 hurdles race in 1964 Olympics. That day, others performed better. I was not destined to have a podium finish that day. Milkha was encouraging and lauded my effort. He would call me “kaptaan” after the 1964 Olympics as I led the Indian contingent. I will miss him, so will India,” said Randhawa.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021