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Indian hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr dies at 96

Last updated on: May 25, 2020 10:52 IST

One of India's greatest hockey players, Balbir Singh Sr, died at a hospital in Chandigarh on Monday after battling multiple health issues for over the last fortnight.

The legend was 96 and is survived by his daughter Sushbir and three sons Kanwalbir, Karanbir, and Gurbir.

"He died at around 6:30 this morning," Abhijit Singh, Director Fortis Hospital, Mohali, where he was admitted since May 8, said.

Balbir Singh Sr's world record for most goals scored by an individual in the men's hockey final (5) of the Olympics still remains unbeaten. Photograph: Balbir Singh Sr/Twitter

His maternal grandson Kabir later sent out a message stating, "Nanaji passed away this morning."

"Today, we have not only lost our greatest hockey legend but we have also lost 'our guiding light'," Hockey India president Mohammed Mushtaque Ahmad said in a statement.

"His achievements in post-independent era have been well-documented ... Hockey has lost its brightest star and everyone at Hockey India is pained by this news."

The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) on Monday condoled the demise of legendary Balbir Singh Sr, saying the three-time Olympic gold medallist will always be remembered for his devotion and contribution to the sport.

"With deep sadness, we received the news of demise of the beloved Padma Shiri Balbir Singh Dosanjh. Certainly, Balbir Singh will long be remembered for his devotedness and contributions for the field hockey in India and at global hockey arena," AHF chief executive Tayyab Ikram said in a statement.

"Balbir Singh left behind a legacy which will always be cherished and serve as a beacon for many budding talents. The Asian Hockey family also joins me to extend our deepest condolences on this bereavement. We are sorry to have lost such a great player and hockey leader," he added.

The AHF termed Singh's demise as "a sad moment not only for Hockey India, Asian Hockey Community but also for the global hockey and sport fraternity."

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 hospitalised after experiencing high fever and suffered three cardiac arrests during the course of his treatment.

It was the fourth time in the past two years that the former captain and coach was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).


In January last year, Balbir Sr spent more than three months in hospital because of bronchial pneumonia.

One of the country's most accomplished athletes, the iconic centre-forward 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.

Balbir Sr's three Olympic gold medals came in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) as vice-captain, and Melbourne (1956) as captain.

He was also the manager of India's only World Cup-winning side in 1975.


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