Indian hockey legend and Olympic medallist Balbir Singh Kullar passes away

He was a member of the bronze medal-winning squad at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

By Sandeep Banerjee ·

Indian hockey player Balbir Singh Kullar passed away Saturday night in his native Sansarpur village in Jalandhar, Punjab at the age of 77.

Balbir Singh Kullar represented India during a period often regarded as the nation’s golden age of hockey, and his tenure included an Olympic bronze and Asian Games gold medal.

Asian and Olympic Games success

He was a member of the Indian hockey squad that topped their pool in the preliminary round at the 1968 Olympic Games, winning six of their seven matches. They, however, lost 1-2 to Australia in the semi-final but managed to upstage West Germany 2-1 in the bronze medal match.

Balbir Singh Kullar was also a part of the Shankar Laxman-led Indian hockey team that clinched a gold medal at the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok after they got the better of Pakistan 1-0 in the final.

In a match that featured two other Balbir Singhs, all three of them worked together to score the match-winning goal. Balbir Singh Kular set up the first pass, which was followed by Balbir Singh Kullar relaying it back to him before it was finally returned to Balbir Singh of Railways, who sent it into the goal.

It was the first and only time in history that India beat Pakistan in two consecutive major tournament finals, with the previous one coming at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics where India beat Pakistan 1-0.

Padma Shri honours

Balbir Singh Kullar, born in the village of Sansarpur in Punjab, had developed into a formidable inside forward during his playing days. 

He participated in his first major international hockey outing for the Indian hockey team at Lyons in France in 1963.

Besides earning his two medals, Balbir Singh Kullar was also given the Arjuna Award, awarded by India for outstanding achievement in sports, in 1999 and was conferred the Padma Shri, the nation's fourth-highest civilian award, a decade later.

He leaves behind his wife, a son and two daughters.

Joginder Singh Saini passes away

The weekend marked the passing of another Indian sporting legend from Punjab, as Dronacharya awardee Joginder Singh Saini, a veteran of Indian athletics breathed his last on Sunday. He was 90.

Born into a doctor's family in Hoshiarpur, he became an athletics coach in 1954 and started teaching in NIS in 1961. By 1970, he was chief coach of the Amateur Athletics Federation of India.

Joginder Singh Saini was involved in coaching until 2004, following which, he became an adviser to the Athletics Federation of India.

In his younger days, he competed in hurdles and also played hockey but athletics remained his first love.

Some of India’s most noteworthy athletes such as Gurbachan Singh Randhawa trained under him during the last four decades.

Joginder Singh Saini was conferred with the Dronacharya Award, for outstanding coaches in sports, in 1997-98 for his contribution to athletics in India.