Updated: June 22, 2021 7:55:54 am
In the cinematic depiction of his life on screen, Milkha Singh trained so hard that he vomited blood after practice. In real life, it was on the last page of his autobiography that the legend himself found the right words, in an Urdu couplet: Destroy your existence if the zenith demands that, cause the seed has to be ground into dust to blossom. India’s greatest male track runner — who died on June 18 due to post-Covid complications — left aspiring athletes with no sermon other than this simple mantra: There’s no alternative to hard work.
India’s Olympic medallists of the last two decades will all testify that amid their many talented peers, it was their hard work that set them apart. The country’s biggest batsmen are known to put in hours of training at the nets, chiselling the smallest of bat angles. Tennis greats talk of hitting the same spot, caressing the lines, to pull out victories when it comes to the crunch. The race might be 200m or 400m, but in pushing the world’s biggest names at the Olympics to the limits, Milkha Singh will remain an abiding source of inspiration.
No Indian male sportsman thereafter has gone as high as 4th place in a track event. Smart-watches and step-apps now note down every calorie burnt, but Milkha had none of the gadgets or the technologies to support his immense effort in training. Today when Indian athletes sulk about having to run the yards, do the rounds of the ground to fortify their lungs, and keep at it till they drop, they’d do well to remember: When they step into the arena, it is the legend’s boots that they must aspire to fill. Sweat and blood weren’t mere cliche, they were part of the striving for excellence that was a guiding force for the Flying Sikh.
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