India sprinter Dutee Chand has paid rich tributes to the legendary athlete Milkha Singh who breathed his last late Friday. Milkha was admitted to a hospital after contracting coronavirus but despite testing negative earlier this week, he failed to recover after a month-long battle, passing away at the age of 91.
For his achievements, Milkha earned the sobriquet of ‘The Flying Sikh’ and was bestowed with the Padma Shree award.
“It’s a sad news that our legendary athlete Milkha Singh is no more. Everybody is mourning his loss. This covid-19 has taken a lot of lives. It’s a sad day,” Dutee told News18 Sports on Saturday.
Dutee, the national record holder in 100m, said she has taken a lot of inspiration from the life and struggles of Milkha who is credited with putting Indian athletics on the world map.
“His life was also full of struggles,” Dutee said. “His biopic Bhag Milkha Bhag I have seen it five-six times. I can see some similarities between his struggles and mine. Didn’t have proper diet, no track to run. Whatever hurdles I faced, he has faced them too. He even lost his parents. Can only imagine the hardships he had to go through and overcome to become what he did eventually. His life has been an inspiration to me."
Dutee also underlined the fact that the facilities the sportspersons of today take for granted were only something one could dream of when Milkha was shattering records.
“The nature of sports is such that you will have great sportspersons every now and then. But Milkha ji achieved so much when I think sports wasn’t as big a deal as it is today," Dutee said,
She continued, “His performance in (Rome) Olympics is the stuff of legends. We keep on complaining about unavailability of coaches, tracks and what not but at a time when it was hard to find proper running shoes and one used to practice barefoot, Milkha made it to the Olympics. That’s the biggest thing. He will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come. "
Dutee also spoke about the time when she met with the sprinter during an awards show in the national capital. “I met him once during an awards show in Delhi. He praised me for the way I was performing and said his blessings are with me and I should make India proud. I felt great," she recalled.