Indian sprint legend Milkha Singh dies of COVID-19

Milkha Singh had contracted the virus last month. His wife and former Indian volleyball captain Nirmal Kaur also died due to a coronavirus infection five days ago.

By Ubaid Parkar
Picture by 2009 Getty Images

Legendary Indian sprinter and three-time Olympian Milkha Singh, who was admitted to hospital due to COVID-19 related complications, has died. He was 91.

Two days after he was moved out of a COVID intensive care unit at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, Milkha Singh’s condition worsened on Friday and passed away late in the night.

His condition had turned critical late on Thursday after his oxygen levels dropped and he developed a fever. Milkha Singh was in the ICU.

Milkha Singh tested positive for the novel coronavirus on May 19 and was admitted to a hospital a few days later. He was later discharged and brought home after his condition improved, only to be readmitted again on June 4. 

His wife and former Indian volleyball captain Nirmal Kaur contracted the virus on May 21. She died in a medical facility in Chandigarh due to COVID-related complications last Sunday. Nirmal was 85.

Known as the Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh dominated Indian track and field for over a decade in the 50s and 60s. He represented India at three Olympic Games; Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964.

At the Rome 1960 Olympics, Milkha Singh came within a photo finish of clinching a medal in the 400m race. He finished fourth with a time of 45.73s - a national record that stood for 40 years.

He was also India’s first gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games after he won the 440-yard race in Cardiff in 1958.

Milkha Singh is survived by a son, golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, and three daughters.