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“Rukna nahi hai”: Gurpreet Sandhu recollects ‘unforgettable’ memory with Milkha Singh

Indian national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and legendary Indian track and field sprinter Milkha Singh. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
Indian national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and legendary Indian track and field sprinter Milkha Singh. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

As the nation mourns the demise of Milkha Singh, one of its most loved and iconic sporting figures, Blue Tigers goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu recalls his memory of receiving an award from the Flying Sikh himself and pays tribute to his immortal legacy.

Legends and their legacies live on forever. Milkha Singh-ji and his life story has influenced billions of people in India and across the world, and even though he is no more with us, he will continue to inspire future generations.

As I woke up to the news of his tragic demise today, my mind immediately went back to the unforgettable memory of receiving an award from the legend himself. The words he spoke to me at the time are still with me and continue to be a huge source of inspiration.

It was in 2015 and I was one of the winners of the Hindustan Times 30 Under 30 Awards. The ceremony took place in Chandigarh and it was Milkha-ji who presented my award to me. He told me, “Hard work has no replacement. I even used to vomit blood at times after training but tumhe rukna nahi hai!” (You cannot stop!)

At the time, I was playing my club football in Norway with Stabaek, where every day was a fight to prove myself and break into the starting lineup. It was a great challenge and living abroad, there were days when it was hard to keep my spirits up. However, I used to fall back on these words spoken to me by ‘the Flying Sikh’ himself, they were a great motivator and pushed me to give my all each day.

This is just a small example from my life and I’m sure there will be so many more athletes across the country like me whose lives were touched by the great man himself and they were able to push themselves to the next level through his blessings and wisdom. All of us grew up reading about him and his successes, and to have shared the stage with him in person is a memory I will always keep close to my heart.

From losing his parents at a tender age and fighting poverty to becoming the Flying Sikh and one of India’s greatest sportspersons of all-time, there are uncountable lessons one can draw from his journey. His achievements on the track are second to none and even in his eighties, he was devoted religiously to fitness and always encouraged others to do the same.

I offer my condolences to his loved ones and wish them strength in this hour of grief. Milkha-ji’s words and blessings will always be with me whenever I am fighting on the football pitch for my country. May his soul rest in peace!

(Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; as told to Shraishth Jain / AIFF Media)