One of India’s greatest hockey players, Balbir Singh Sr, died at a hospital here on Monday (May 25) after battling multiple health issues for over two weeks.
The legend was 96 and is survived by his daughter Sushbir and three sons Kanwalbir, Karanbir, and Gurbir. “He died at around 6:30 this morning,” Abhijit Singh, Director Fortis Hospital, Mohali, where he was admitted since May 8, told PTI. His maternal grandson Kabir later sent out a message stating,” Nanaji passed away this morning.”
The three-time Olympic gold medallist was in a semi-comatose state since May 18 and had developed a blood clot in his brain after being first admitted to the hospital for bronchial pneumonia with high fever. He was hospitalised after experiencing high fever and suffered three cardiac arrests during the course of his treatment.
One of the country’s most accomplished athletes, the iconic centre-forward was the only Indian among 16 legends chosen by the International Olympic Committee across modern Olympic history. His world record for most goals scored by an individual in the men’s hockey final of the Olympics still remains unbeaten.
He had scored five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Games. He was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1957.
Balbir Sr’s three Olympic gold medals came in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) as vice-captain, and Melbourne (1956) as captain. He was also the manager of India’s only World Cup-winning side in 1975. It was the fourth time in the past two years that the former captain and coach was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
In January last year, Balbir Sr spent more than three months in hospital because of bronchial pneumonia.