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Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr passes away at 96

Balbir Singh Sr’s record for most goals scored by an individual in the men’s hockey final at the Olympics still remains unbeaten.

Triple Olympic gold medallist Balbir Singh Senior breathed his last at a Mohali hospital on Monday morning. He was 96. Singh, who was member of the 1948 London Olympics gold medal-winning Indian hockey team, apart from being the vice-captain of the 1952 victorious side and skipper of the 1956 champions, had been admitted to the hospital earlier this month on May 8 due to pneumonia and was on ventilator support. He passed away at 6:17 am on Monday.

Singh, whose full name was Balbir Singh Dosanjh but was called Senior to differentiate from the other five Balbirs who played for India in later years, was also the oldest surviving Olympic medallist from India, a record which now passes on to his 1948 London Olympics team-mate Keshav Dutt.

Born on December 31, 1923 to Sardar Dalip Singh and Karam Kaur at his maternal village of Haripur Khalsa, Singh went on to become one of the best centre forwards India has produced. He had started his career as a goalkeeper with his school team at Moga before playing as a defender and later a centre forward. As a five-year-old, Singh was given a hockey stick by his freedom fighter father and he recalled it fondly in his autobiography “The Golden Hat-trick”.

“I was born in a village. After a few years, my parents brought me to a small town. There I saw her for the first time. I liked her, respected her, loved her and worshiped her. She became my Goddess, my first love and my darling. She took me along to new pastures and new places in different countries all over the world. Wherever we went, we were accorded royal receptions. She taught me the qualities of sportsmanship. Her love for me was eternal. Our love blossomed in London. We married in Helsinki and honeymooned in Melbourne. After a period of 11 long years, my fairy of the Heavens returned to me as fresh and charming as ever. This time she took me to Kuala Lumpur, and we were again on top of the world. She vanished again, but with a promise that she would return. I am waiting for her – my hockey fairy. She must come,” Singh had written.

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