Sports Desk- Indian hockey veteran Balbir Singh Sr. passed away. He was 96 years old. After suffering from health-related problems for more than two weeks, he breathed his last in the hospital on Monday. He was the father of a daughter and three sons. His sons are settled in Canada and he used to live here with his daughter and grandson.
“He died at around 6:30 morning on 25 May” Abhijit Singh, Director Fortis Hospital, Mohali, where he was admitted since May 8, told PTI. Balbir Singh Sr. played a key role in winning India’s gold medals at the London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956) Olympics.
His maternal grandson Kabir later sent out a message stating, “Nanaji passed away this morning.”
The three-time Olympic gold medallist was in a semi-comatose state since May 18 and had developed a blood clot in his brain after being first admitted to the hospital for bronchial pneumonia with high fever. Singh suffered three cardiac arrests during the course of his treatment.
One of the country’s most accomplished athletes, Singh was the only Indian among 16 legends chosen by the International Olympic Committee across modern Olympic history. His world record for most goals scored by an individual in the men’s hockey final of the Olympics still remains unbeaten.
He had scored five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Games. He was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1957. That was the first time an athlete was conferred the prestigious civilian honour.
Born in 10 Oct. 1924 in Punjab’s Haripur Khalsa village, he was spotted by Harbail Singh, who was the then coach of Khalsa College and later coached India to back-to-back gold medals in 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He scored 246 goals in 61 matches for India.
Singh won three consecutive Olympic gold medals just like the more celebrated Dhyan Chand but lived a quieter life.
In the past few years, there was clamour for him to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna with Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh even writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding the country’s highest civilian award for him.