Legendary Indian sprinter Milkha Singh died due to COVID-19 on Friday. The legend of Milkha Singh has been alive for many decades now. His story of struggle and rise to the top is considered one of the most inspiring stories in Indian sports, by many. Milkha, who was orphaned during the India-Pakistan partition riot, was first introduced to track and field when he was serving in the Indian Army. The first Indian athlete to win an individual athletics gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, Milkha was honoured with the name the ‘Flying Sikh’.

But how did he receive the title and who bestowed it upon him?

After his gold-medal-winning exploit in the 1958 Commonwealth Games, Milkha continued representing India at different international events. In the 1960 Rome Olympics, the Indian athlete missed out on a bronze medal.

It was the same year when he was invited to take part in the 200m event at an International Athletic competition in Lahore, Pakistan. Since 1947, he hadn’t visited Pakistan and had refused to go. But he soon changed his decision when the then Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru convinced him to visit the neighbouring country.

In the event, his main rival was Pakistan’s Abdul Khaliq. Despite having huge home advantage, Khaliq was beaten by Milkha. During the medal presentation, Pakistan’s Gen Ayub Khan, not only handed him the medal but also gave him a nickname that would stick with him for the rest of his life.

In an interview with BBC, Milkha said that Gen Ayub, during the ceremony, told him: “You came to Pakistan and did not run, you actually flew in Pakistan.”

Milkha further added that he was told: “Pakistan bestows upon you the title of the Flying Sikh.”

Milka is best known for his performance at the 1960 Rome Games. His fourth-place time of 45.73 became the Indian national record, which was untouched for 40 years. During 1958-1962, he won four gold medals in the Asian Games.