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Milkha Singh: Everybody’s icon, Sachin Tendulkar deserves the Bharat Ratna

Sachin Tendulkar is set to receive the highest civilian honour of the country next month © PTI
Sachin Tendulkar is set to receive the highest civilian honour of the country next month © PTI

Kolkata: Jan 22, 2014

Hailing the decision to confer Bharat Ratna on Sachin Tendulkar, legendary athlete Milkha Singh today said the cricket icon is a true ambassador of the sport to deserve the award.

“Many have received the Bharat Ratna but nobody remembers their names… However everybody will remember that Tendulkar got the Ratna. He is everybody’s sport icon,” Milkha, who was in the city to launch the DVD of “Vande Mataram… The New Light” by Smriti Lala of Rag Anurag Music Research Academy said.

Asked whether he’s happy with the Padma Shri he received from the government way back in 1958 after winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal, the flying Sikh said: “I don’t hanker after awards. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru knew me personally… I could have easily asked for acres of land but in our times we were not running after awards,” he said.

“I am happy with the Padma Shri. What difference does it make to me if I am now given a higher Padma Award? The people of India know my achievements. I did not want to run around for a Padma Bhushan or Vibhushan,” he added.

The ‘Flying Sikh’, who is still the first Indian sportsperson to have won an individual gold medal in Commonwealth Games (in 400m in Cardiff in 1958), said athletics is the real sport and his last wish is to see an Indian win an Olympic medal in athletics.

“We have won medals in boxing, shooting, wrestling, badminton but only by winning a medal in athletics will put your country in the world map,” he said citing example of Usain Bolt for Jamaica.

He does not blame the government for not producing world class track and field athletes.

“The government does a lot, ranging from providing the infrastructure to financial support for training etc. In our time, we didn’t get these facilities. Current athletes are getting all these.

“Yet, another Milkha Singh has not been produced in the country in nearly 60 years after me. I will say that the federation and the athletes were also to take some of the blame. Not all, but some athletes are lacking in commitment,” he said.

“It (the medal) slipped by a whisker in Rome 1960. But before I die, I want to see a youngster win it. That’s my only wish, why can’t a country of 1.2 billion produce another Milkha?” he asked.

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