Balbir Singh Sr. had a special bond with the Olympics, winning golds in all three editions - 1948, 1952, 1956 - he competed with the Indian hockey team.
However, the 96-year-old’s love for the showpiece event extended beyond the pitch as well.
“The honour associated with it is one thing I admire,” Balbir Singh Sr. told the Olympic Channel a few years back. “The mutual friendship between the youth of different countries is another.”
The former Indian hockey captain and coach, who passed away Monday morning after being hospitalized for over two weeks, was always warm and willing to help out anyone who sought it.
He was also a very inspirational figure for aspiring athletes. “Those Olympic victories were instrumental in sending me to schools, colleges and universities to interact with youngsters,” he added.
“If I had not been an Olympic champion, no one would have sent me there. It gave me an opportunity to inspire young people. Wherever I went, I narrated my stories.
“Many of them went on to become international players, so I feel the stories helped them a lot.”
Sport unites all
Balbir Singh Sr. was also a big believer in sport developing unity among countries. “I am thankful to the old-timers who started the Olympics, it was the best thing they did for humanity,” he chuckled, lauding the Olympic spirit.
“The Games were there even when wars were happening and it sent out a very important message – stop fighting, start playing.”
The Indian hockey legend also believed that the Olympics brought the world closer together. “When I first came to London, there was just one Indian restaurant in the city. Now, every street has one and British people are eating chillies,” he guffawed.