Three-time Olympic Indian hockey champion Balbir Singh Sr passes away aged 95

Balbir Singh Sr played three editions of the Olympics for the Indian hockey team
Balbir Singh Sr played three editions of the Olympics for the Indian hockey team

One of India's most accomplished players in the history of Indian Hockey, Balbir Singh Sr passed away aged 95 on Monday. The three-time Olympic gold medallist was first admitted in the hospital two weeks ago for bronchial pneumonia with a high fever and breathed his last on Monday.

Balbir Singh Sr is survived by his daughter Sushbir and three sons Kanwalbir, Karanbir and Gurbir.

Easily one of the biggest names among the list of centre forwards to have represented Indian hockey, Balbir Singh Sr is famously remembered for his five goals in India's 6-1 thumping of the Netherlands at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

Balbir Singh Sr was a part of the Indian hockey squad at the London Olympics (1948), Helsinki Olympics (1952) and was also the captain of the team at the Melbourne Olympics (1956).

Balbir Singh Sr scored the first two goals for the Indian hockey team at the 1948 London Olympics

Labelled as the 'find of the tournament' at the 1948 London Olympics, Balbir Singh Sr scored the first two goals of the final against Great Britain, a brace which helped independent India ride on the momentum to win 4-0.

The centre-forward's best performance came at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, leading from the front as the vice-captain of the Indian hockey team. Following a hat-trick against Britain in the semifinal, Balbir Singh Sr was unstoppable in the summit clash, finding the back of the net on five occasions.

In the next edition of the Olympics, Balbir Singh Sr was named skipper of the Indian hockey team and made quite an impression in the opening game before he was sidelined due to injury.

The centre-forward returned to action in the knockout stages and under his stewardship, India registered a 1-0 win against Pakistan in the final.

Coaching post retirement

After being conferred with the Padma Shri award in 1957, Balbir Singh Sr won the silver medal at the Asian Games the next year. Post retirement, Balbir Singh Sr also served as the coach and then manager of the Indian hockey team for a few years.

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Edited by Prasen Moudgal
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