Late Balbir Singh Sr’s name proposed for Bharat Ratna Award

The three-time Olympic gold medallist was cremated with full state honours in Chandigarh.

By Subhayan Dutta ·

Indian hockey legend and recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri Award, Balbir Singh Sr’s name has been proposed for the Bharat Ratna Award, India’s highest civilian award.

The former Indian hockey captain, and a three-time Olympic gold medallist, passed away on Monday morning. He was 96.

Balbir Singh Sr. was cremated in the evening in Chandigarh with full state honours.

Punjab Sports Minister Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, who was present at his funeral among many other dignitaries of the state, said that Balbir Singh Sr’s name has been recommended by the state chief minister.

“The Chief Minister has already written a letter to the Prime Minister. I hope this will be done at the earliest,” he told the media.

“He truly deserves this and he will get the Bharat Ratna Award.”

Apart from that, Balbir Singh Sr. will also get the Mohali Stadium in Chandigarh renamed after him.

“He is the biggest name in the world of hockey. The Chief Minister (Captain Amarinder Singh) will make the announcement in this regard," Sodhi revealed.

‘Lost our guiding light’

The 96-year-old had been in critical condition for the past two weeks and was admitted at the Fortis Mohali hospital on May 8 after a high fever and breathing difficulties.

Having sustained multiple organ failure, Balbir Singh Sr. was in a semi-comatose condition before he breathed his last early on Monday.

The senior officials of the state government laid wreaths around the departed athlete during the funeral while a police contingent fired three-volley shots as a mark of respect.

"Today, we have not only lost our greatest iconic player but we have also lost our guiding light,” Sodhi said.

“He remained the greatest fan of the sport and was always there when we needed his advice.

“Hockey has lost its shining star and every one belonging to the sports arena is pained by this shocking news," the minister added.

The entire nation, from sport stars to ministers, mourned the passing away of the legend on Monday.

Balbir Singh Sr. at the 1948 London Olympics. Photo: Sports Authority of India/Twitter

An inspiration for ages

One of the most decorated Indian athletes to play the Olympic Games, Balbir Singh Sr. had won the gold medal for the Indian national hockey team at the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Summer Games.

It was under his leadership that the Indian team had scored 38 goals and conceded none in their 1956 Olympics campaign in Melbourne.

After retiring as a player, Balbir Singh Sr. had also coached and managed the Indian team to a World Cup silver medal and gold medal in 1971 and 1975 respectively, and a silver medal at the 1982 Asian Games among many other podium finishes.

He was also the only Indian athlete among the 16 legendary sports persons from across the world, who were chosen for the ‘Iconic Olympians’ by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).