Indian hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr died on 25 May aged 96 in Mohali's Fortis Hospital. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time, the center forward was a key part of the glorious Indian team that won a hat-trick of Olympic gold medals in 1948(London), 1952(Helsinki) and 1956(Melbourne).One of the country's most accomplished athletes, Balbir Sr was the only Indian among 16 legends chosen by the International Olympic Committee across modern Olympic history.
Born in pre-partition India in Haripur village of Punjab , Balbir used to play hockey in Lahore , present day Pakistan. Singh saw a newsreel on India's 1936 Olympic hockey triumph. He was spotted as a promising hockey player by Harbail Singh, who was the then coach of Khalsa College hockey team. It was Harbail who repeatedly insisted that Balbir transfer from Sikh National College, Lahore to Khalsa College, Amritsar. Finally, Balbir got the permission from his family to take the transfer to Khalsa College in 1942 and began intensive training and practice sessions under Harbail's guidance. Later, Harbail coached the successful Indian national hockey team at the Helsinki and Melbourne Olympics.
His world record for most goals scored by an individual in the men's hockey final of the Olympics(5) still remains unbeaten. Young players from all parts of the national admire and emulate him. His game was at par with the legendary Dhyan Chand but lead a quieter life. He took up the managerial role after his retirement and coached the 1971 Indian team for hockey World cup where they earned a bronze medal.In 1975 he was the manager of the victorious Indian World Cup hockey team.
In 1957 Singh became the first civilian recipient of the Padma Shri award in the sports category. He was also a member of the Indian hockey team that won the silver medal at the 1958 Asian Games.In 2015, he was conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award of Hockey India.He wrote two books: his autobiography The Golden Hat Trick (1977) and The Golden Yardstick: In Quest of Hockey Excellence (2008).
As he departs for his heavenly abode, he will the remembered as a humble and soft spoken sporting great who ruled World hockey for 12 years! As the sports fraternity mourns the loss, he yet he will continue to be an immortal source of inspiration and motivation for all of us. he has left a mark in Indian hockey and many generations to come will emulate and admire him.