One of the country’s earliest sports heroes, Milkha Singh died of Covid-19 related complications in a hospital in Chandigarh in June this year, leaving the whole nation in shock and disbelief.
The legendary sprinter had time and again said that it was his last wish to see an Indian winning a gold medal in athletics at the Games. And Neeraj fulfilled Milkha Singh’s wish when he created history by becoming the first from the country to win a gold in track and field in the Olympics.
Days after winning the gold, Neeraj Chopra said it was his dream to fulfil the wish of legend Milkha Singh and win a medal for India at the Olympics in track and field.
Neeraj had replied to a message posted by Kiren Rijiju on Twitter in August 2021 and wrote: “Thank you, sir. Mera bhi sapna tha ki Milkha Singh ji ki wish puri kar paun. Bas yehi umeed hai ki woh jahan bhi hai, ye dekh kar khush hue honge. (It was my dream to fulfil Milkha Singh ji’s wish. Hope he will be happy to see me win the medal).”
@KirenRijiju Thank you, sir. Mera bhi sapna tha ki Milkha Singh ji ki wish puri kar paun. Bas yehi umeed hai ki woh… https://t.co/0cciBT88go
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) 1628857427000
Neeraj had won the gold medal on August 7 and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) realised the importance of this feat and they went on to declare August 7 as National Javelin Day. From next year onwards AFI’s affiliated units will hold javelin competitions in their respective states and inter-district competitions will be held. Javelins will also be provided by the federation to make the event a huge success.
Milkha represented India at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, the 1960 Olympics in Rome, and the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. He was the first Indian athlete to claim a gold medal in the individual athletics category at the Commonwealth Games before the sprinter’s record was broken in 2010.
The race for which Milkha is fondly remembered is his fourth-place finish in the 400 metres final at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. He had entered as one of the favourites in the showpiece event.
During the race, Milkha was leading the charge before he lost momentum and was overtaken by the other sprinters. But when Neeraj threw the javelin to a distance of 87.58m to pick the gold at the Olympics, the star athletes finally fulfilled Milkha Singh’s long-standing wish.
Neeraj’s historic golden throw in the Olympics has been listed as one of the 10 magical moments of athletics (track and field) in the Tokyo Olympics by World Athletics.