A living legend, Indian former track and field sprinter, Padma Shree Awardee and the father of ace golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, ‘The Flying Sikh’, Milkha Singh has brought much glory to India.
From being orphaned and displaced during the Partition, Milkha Singh has proved his mettle across national and international platforms and was referred to as the “the finest athlete India has ever produced.
In a candid conversation, Milkha Singh gives us his views on sports, movies and more…
“Well, athletics is the mother sport and has continued to see its importance maintained internationally. India has seen a lot more Marathons and I am happy to see races like the Red Marathon come up, which are important for the sport, overall fitness and also the causes they support. But overall, we still have a long way to go as far as athletics in India is concerned,” he shares speaking about his collaboration with the Red Marathon.
On being asked if he was satisfied with what he has achieved he says, “Yes, I am. Winning 77 International races and being acknowledged as one of the best in the world was quite an achievement.
“Yet, losing that gold medal in the Olympics will always be something which I will regret,” he adds.
An inspiration to many, Milkha advises young athletes to “aim high and work hard with discipline and determination. You will definitely touch the sky.
“The kids today have a lot more opportunities. But unfortunately, they still make excuses for not performing. If we could achieve what we could with practically nothing, they can do a lot more.”
“I don’t watch too many movies and do not know many actors so cant really comment. But Farhan did a great job and it will be tough for anyone to match the quality of effort that he put in. He became Milkha,” he said when enquired about an actor he suggests for his biopic, if not Farhan Akhtar.
Speaking on the selection process of National Award winners and the problems the industry faces, he says, “Only the deserving should be rewarded. Many players who have not won internationally have been given Arjuna Award and that’s wrong.
“Yes, the system can be better. There cannot be much favoritism in athletics as it is based on performance and timings. The best runner will go.” He also adds that, “we need to take the strictest possible action against those athletes, coaches, doctors and administrators who allow banned drugs and medications that are now becoming a menace among the sports fraternity.
There should be zero tolerance for drug usage. We must stop this in India.”
Many athletes are still struggling to earn their livelihood even after winning national and international accolades in the field of sports. When asked for his opinion on the government’s initiatives to recognise and encourage young athletes, he says
It seems that cricket has become the most glamorous and money-making-sport in the country.
“If the government can ensure that all deserving sportsmen are appropriately acknowledged, it will serve as a motivation for others. We should have guaranteed jobs for even those who do not make it on the international stage, but have performed on the National stage. This will enable more sportsmen make a fully committed effort in athletics which will lead to better results in the future.
“Parents will then stop discouraging their kids from pursuing sports because they will see that their child can have a future in it even if he fails in terms of sporting excellence.
A committee should be set up in association with the Sports Ministry and concerned associations to ensure that the players get necessary jobs. Cricket is seeing success because even though only a few countries play it, India does well, and people like to see a successful Indian team. I’m sure if other sports demonstrated such International successes, money will come there eventually. Badminton is a great example of that,” he adds.
Opining his views on the international relationship between India and Pakistan, he quotes, “I remember that I went to Pakistan only when Nehru Ji insisted I go, because through sports we can build bridges.
“We should have more sporting interactions. We all know that things are bad at the moment and hopefully will improve in the future. Nothing will be gained from fighting with each other,” he signs off.
#For the record, Milkha Singh would be visiting the city to attend the Red Marathon, organised by HK Events at Balewadi Stadium, Pune on February 18, 5:30 A.M.
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