Chandigarh: Hockey Olympian Balbir Singh ‘Senior’, who was admitted to a private hospital in Mohali last week, is in a critical condition after suffering multiple cardiac arrests.
The 96-year-old icon from Jalandhar, who has been listed by the International Olympics Committee as one of the 16 legends in the history of Modern Olympics, was hospitalised on 8 May with high fever and breathing trouble. But, his Covid-19 test came negative.
He, however, suffered multiple cardiac arrests this week — one on 12 May and two on 13 May, said his grandson Kabir Singh Thursday in a communication to the media.
He is very critical and on ventilator support, but his condition has not deteriorated, he added.
When ThePrint reached Kabir via WhatsApp Friday to know about Singh’s condition, he said: “Currently, wait, watch, pray.”
On Tuesday, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh tweeted, wishing the hockey legend speedy recovery.
In January this year, Singh underwent 3 months of treatment for bronchial pneumonia at the PGIMER, Chandigarh.
Singh is a three-time gold champion at the London (1948), Helsinki (1952 as vice-captain) and Melbourne (1956 as the captain) Olympics.
One of the greatest centre forwards in the history of hockey, Singh was the chief coach and manager of the Indian hockey team that won the World Cup in 1975, the only time India won the World Cup.
He also holds the unbeaten Olympic record for the highest number of goals scored by an individual in an Olympic men’s hockey final. He was bestowed with a Padma Shri in 1957, the first ever recipient of the award in the sports category.
His spirit of winning for the country
The epithet ‘Senior’ was added to his name to distinguish him from the other hockey players named Balbir Singh.
In an episode of ‘Walk the Talk’ with journalist Shekhar Gupta in 2014, Singh recounted his moments of Olympic victory.
“When you see the national flag of your country go up with the national anthem playing, it is an experience which is special. It cannot be told or seen, it has to be experienced. The national flag and the national anthem instill a spirit in you that you must win for the country, for that flag,” he had said.
Singh said it was hockey that gave him everything. “I started as a goalkeeper when I was in Moga. My father was the hostel warden and from the house where we lived, the hockey field was only a few yards away. Then I played as full back. But once I was centre forward, there was no looking back,” he had said.
‘Country comes first’
Singh was inducted into the Punjab Police and played for the police team as well.
“For the 1975 World Cup, we were training the team at Punjab University, Chandigarh. After the first few days of the camp, my father passed away. I took a day off for his cremation. His last rites were done after coming back from winning the World Cup,” he had said in ‘Walk the Talk’.
“For the World Cup, the players were drawn from across India. Had I wanted I could have taken only Punjabis or Sikhs. But for me, the country comes first. Even in the camp, we had a common prayer room where players could pray according to their religious beliefs. Instead of ‘Jo bole so nihaal Sat Sri Akal’, which is a Sikh clarion call, we made it ‘Jo bole so hai, Bharat mata ki jai’,” he had said.
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