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Balbir Singh Sr looks forward to watching Gold

Padmashree National Award winner Balbir Singh Sr, 94, is eagerly waiting to relive the magical moment in India’s hockey history through Gold

Balbir Singh Sr  looks forward to watching Gold

When the movie Gold releases today, it will have a very special man in the audience. The man who scored two out of the four winning goals in the 1948 London Olympics, and helped independent India defeat the British in hockey on their own turf. One of the two surviving members of that winning team, Balbir Singh Sr, 94, now looks forward to seeing the movie and reliving the magical moment in India's hockey history through its narrative.

"Of course, I would like to see the movie," says Singh. Remembering August 12, 1948, the day the tricolour fluttered on the British soil, marking the most important day in the history of sports of independent India, Singh says, "That was the first occasion when India's national flag stood high at the top of the world. I felt I was flying higher and higher with the flag. It was only when the national anthem ended that I realised I was on the ground."

Was he awed playing against the British? "No, we were not awed playing against our former rulers. In fact, that gave us the courage and power to play well," he says.

Thus, for a young team, born from the womb of a divided India, this sweet victory was very special and significant. Moreover, several good players of undivided India had migrated to Pakistan. "It was hilarious. Everything looked victorious. Even Britishers welcomed us to their homes. The civilian Britishers were different than the rulers," reminisces this grand old man of hockey whose contribution to Indian sport remains unparalleled.

The recipient of the first Padmashree National Award for Sports in 1957, Balbir Singh Sr played two more Olympics. He scored five out of six goals against Holland in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, steering the Indian hockey team to victory. His Helsinki record remains unbroken till date. He captained the 1956 Melbourne Olympics hockey team. Singh was chosen as one of the 16 'Iconic Olympians', across all participants in all disciplines since the start of the modern Olympic Era in 1896, by the custodians of Olympic History. A recipient of the Major Dhyan Chand 'Lifetime Achievement Award', he was also the Chief coach and manager of the 1975 (Kuala Lumpur) World Cup Gold Medal winning team. Incidentally, this was the only time India won the World Cup. Singh retired from the post of Director of Sports, Punjab, in 1982.

Vinati Bhargava Mittal

Vinati Bhargava Mittal

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