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How Milkha Singh Became The Flying Sikh


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How Milkha Singh Became The Flying Sikh


While everyone knows who the 'Flying Sikh' is, many wouldn't be aware that the veteran Olympian, Milkha Singh, got this name in Pakistan in 1960 at a track event that he never wanted to contest.

"I didn't want to go to Pakistan to attend the games as my parents were killed there during the riots after Partition. However, I was persuaded by the then Prime Minister to go," said the veteran athlete, adding that it was there he got the title of "Flying Sikh' after he defeated the Pakistan champion Abdul Khaliq in the 200-metre race.

Addressing a gathering here today after receiving the Award of Excellence at a function organised by the Rotary District 3080, an emotional Milkha Singh said: "[The PM] told me to bury the past and go to Pakistan ... [He] felt that since Pakistan had extended an invitation for the event in a spirit of friendship, it was imperative that I represented the nation," said Milkha.

Recalling his journey, he said: "I went in a jeep decked up with flowers. Once we crossed the Wagah border and began our 20-km ride to Lahore, we saw people lined up on either side of the road to cheer us".

About the race, Milkha recounted that some Urdu paper had then given a headline, 'Khaliq ki takkar Milkha se - Pakistan vs. India'.

"On the day of the race, I was told that around 60,000 persons had assembled at the Lahore stadium, including almost 20,000 burqa-clad women. Before the race began, the mullahs (priests) came to conduct prayers and bless Khaliq", Milkha said. "I stopped one of them and sought blessings from him by saying that I too am a man of God (khuda ka banda)," he added.

He said when the race began Khaliq took an initial lead as he was a 100m sprinter. My strength was my stamina and I overtook him after 150 yards and won the race by around seven yards", he said, adding that his timing was 20.7 sec, a new world record.

He said after the race, General Ayub (the then Pakistan President) came up to him and said: "Milkha, you did not run, you flew."

"And that's how I got my name", he told the audience.

[Courtesy: Tribune]

December 19, 2010

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