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'He was one of India's greatest sporting icons'

By Rediff Sports
Last updated on: May 25, 2020 11:57 IST
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Tributes pour in for Hockey great Balbir Singh Sr.

Balbir Singh Sr is flanked by Dhanraj Pillai (left) and Viren Raquinha (right)

IMAGE: Balbir Singh Sr is flanked by Dhanraj Pillai (left) and Viren Raquinha (right). Photograph: Kind courtesy, Viren Rasquinha/Facebook

Names cutting across sporting disciplines paid tribute to hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr, who passed away in Chandigarh on Monday morning.

He was 96.

The hockey great battled multiple health issues over the last fortnight before breathing his last.

“Deeply saddened to hear of the demise of legendary Olympian Balbir Singh Sr, 3 time Olympic gold medallist. I met him several times over the years and this picture was from my last meeting with him at New Delhi. He was always smiling, so mentally alert and such a thorough gentleman. What a fine role model. You will be missed Sir. Rest in Peace,” wrote former India captain Viren Rasquinha on his Facebook page alongside a photograph with former India captain Dhanraj Pillai and the departed legend.  


“India lost an absolute legend. Deeply distressing news to wake up to. Condolences to Balbir Singh Sr Ji’s family in this time of grief,” tweeted former India captain Dilip Tirkey.

India cricketer Harbhajan Singh wrote on Twitter: “A doyen of Indian sports Shri Balbir Singh Senior is no more. When you look back at his achievements, you just remain awestruck - 3 olympic gold medals, five goals in Olympic final. Manager of World Cup winning team. Possibly among India's greatest sporting icons. May his soul rest RIP.”

Balbir Singh Sr in action

IMAGE: India's Balbir Singh Sr in action. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Sai Media/Twitter

Punjab CM Capt Amrinder Singh also paid his respects.

“Saddened to learn about passing away of Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr. A Triple Olympic Gold medallist, he exemplified qualities of perseverance, dedication & sportsmanship. Sir, you will be dearly missed & will forever remain an inspiration! A grateful State bids you farewell,” he tweeted.

India Olympic medal-winning boxer Vijender Singh also paid his condolences: “Deeply pained to hear the news about passing of legendary Balbir Singh Senior ji (Three time Olympic Gold Medalist) He will continue to be a source of inspiration for our generations My hearfelt condolences to his family and friends May his soul rest in peace.”

World Youth athletics champion, Hima Das wrote on Twitter: “Deeply pained to learn about the demise of legendary Balbir Singh Senior sir. He will remain in our hearts forever. My heartfelt condolences to his family and everyone in Hockey fraternity. RIP.”

Another former hockey captain and goalkeeper of current national men's side, P R Sreejesh and skipper of the women's team Rani Rampal also tweeted their condolences.

"I was rather shocked to hear the news of legendary Olympian Balbir Singh Sr untimely demise. My heartfelt condolences to his family. I pray that the almighty gives his family the strength to withstand this tragic moment. May his soul rest in peace. #RIP," Sreejesh wrote.

"Pained to learn about the passing of our three times Olympic Gold medalist and legend Balbir Singh Senior sir this morning. His contribution towards Indian hockey is unforgettable. He will continue to inspire our generations to come. My deepest condolences to his family. RIP," Rani tweeted.

"Saddened to hear about the passing of the legend, Balbir Singh Sr. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family in this time of sorrow," wrote India captain Virat Kohli.

Balbir Singh Sr, left, with Abhinav Bindra

IMAGE: Balbir Singh Sr, left, with Abhinav Bindra at a function in 2018. Photograph: Balbir Singh Sr/Twitter

India's only individual Olympic gold medal winner, Abhinav Bindra paid a glowing tribute to the legend. 

"Saddened to hear of the demise of one of India's most celebrated Olympians, Balbir Singh Sr. Athletes and role models such as him come very rarely, and it was an honour to know him, and I hope his example will continue to inspire athletes from around the world!" Bindra tweeted.

Track and field legend PT Usha described Singh as an "athlete par excellence and role model beyond words". 

"His bestowed hands may strengthen my passions more. My condolences to his family, friends and fans!" Usha tweeted.

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. He was tested for COVID-19 but reports came out negative.

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.

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