My last desire is to see an Olympic gold in athletics: Milkha
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"My last desire before I leave this world is that I want an Indian boy or a girl win an Olympic gold medal for the country and for my sake. I failed to win it in Rome Olympics in 1960," said the 'Flying Sikh' Milkha on saturday.
"After 2-3 years, I may be no more. Just a few days ago, my dear friend Dara Singh, who was like a brother to me, passed away. Whether I will live for next few years more, it is up to God. I want to see an Indian win an Olympic gold in athletics," said the 82-year-old.
Milkha had clocked 45.60 seconds in 1960 Rome Olympics 400m race to finish fourth in a photo finish, beaten by Malcolm Spence of South Africa for the bronze.
Milkha, who won gold in 1958 and 1962 Asian Games and is also the only Indian man to win an individual athletics gold in the Commonwealth Games, said the fact that no Indian has ever won an Olympic medal in athletics saddens him.
"Athletics is considered number one sport in the world, be it Olympics, Commonwealth or Asian Games. But since India gained Independence, only five reached the finals in athletics event and all failed to win a medal, myself including. Others were Gurbachan Singh Randhawa (1964), Shri Ram Singh (1976),PT Usha (1984) and Anju George. I feel ashamed that after 1947 we produced a number of athletes, but failed to win any medal," said Milkha.
Milkha knows that it would be a big ask for the current Indian athletes to win a medal in athletics in the upcoming London Olympics.
"Although it is my last desire that we should fetch a gold, but I know in reality it will be no less than a miracle if we do it in London. I have some hope from Krishna Poonia and she may get a bronze. She won a gold in the Delhi Commonwealth Games," he said.
Milkha recalled that during his time, there was dearth of good coaches, stadia, equipment and money. But today, There are more then 40,000 coaches with SAI, latest equipment, foreign coaches available. "despite so much availability of good coaches, we have not been able to reach the standards we should have achieved." "I don't blame the government for our sorry state, it is providing money, facilities, equipment, building stadia, but result lies with the athletes themselves and their associations, be it of hockey, athletics or football," he pointed out.
He said that to reach Olympic or world standard was not something that can happen overnight, Indian Olympic Association is responsible. "The federations are responsible. They should call meetings. Goals and targets should be set well in advance," he said, adding it would be unfair to put the blame on the Sports Ministry.
Milkha Singh put the onus of showing the results on the athletes, saying that they should put in extra work hard.
"I am a living example before them. I ran 80 international races and won 77 of them. It is no small achievement. The world (in late 1950s) knew if anyone could win a medal in 400m race in Olympics in Rome, it will be Milkha Singh," said Milkha, who had won a gold in the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games.
"Why people still remember Dhyan Chand, India has not produced hockey legend like him. I am invited in numerous functions and I keep telling our younger crop that they have to do work hard," he said.
"Our federations should realise that short trainings to players to acclimatise to the conditions is not going to be enough unless you regularly monitor stamina, strength, speed,find out where they lack and take remedial actions like putting them in weight training, hill running, sand running, cross country or whatever is necessary according to a given player's needs," he said
Milkha Singh also suggested that talent should be scouted from the School Games which are held at all India level. "Till the time we select promising talent, give scientific training, hold competitions and hire coaches on contract basis who will deliver results, things are not going to look up", said the 'flying sikh'.
"The selected children should be put in academies like those in China, where they get education and training. In the 1960s, we had opened a sports school in Jalandhar. I had told then Chief Minister late Pratap Singh Kairon that it was necessary to attract talent at school level and train them, provide all facilities like food, clothing and education to them," he said.
He offered his best wishes to the Indian contingent taking part in the London Olympics.
"They are our ambassadors and we have hopes from them," he said. He, however, feels that controversies like the tennis selection row involving Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were avoidable.
"That was very bad. It hurts me. A sportsperson teaches the world sportsman spirit, which is to have mutual respect towards each other. The Games are held to promote brotherhood and good feelings towards each other. But what happened between our tennis players was completely avoidable. That brought sports in disrepute. It sets a bad example," he said.
Asked if he will go to London to watch the Olympics Games, Milkha said, "I will try to go for a day or two, but my health has not been good in recent times. My son (ace Indian golfer) Jeev is also playing there (in Europe). He has been insisting that I should come, lets see."
Milkha said he likes to spend his time readingnewspapers, playing golf and going for some light jogging. He is also featuring in a Bollywood movie "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" based on him.
He has donated all his medals, trophies, his running shoes with which he broke the national record at Rome Olympics, to the National Sports Museum so as to inspire the young sportspersons of the country.
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