New Delhi, President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday expressed grief at the passing away of legendary hockey player Balbir Singh Senior.
Balbir Senior, a three-time Olympic gold medallist, died this morning at a private hospital in Mohali. Balbir, 96, was undergoing treatment at Fortis Mohali and was in a "semi-comatose condition". He was hospitalised on May 8 with high fever and breathing trouble. But, his COVID-19 test had come negative.
"Sad to hear the passing of hockey legend Shri Balbir Singh Sr. A three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Padma Shri awardee and one of India's greatest athletes, his legacy will continue to inspire future generations. Condolences to his family, friends and admirers," said President Kovind on Twitter.
Offering condolence to his family, Prime Minister Modi said: "Padma Shri Balbir Singh Sr. Ji will be remembered for his memorable sporting performances. He brought home lots of pride and laurels. Undoubtedly a brilliant hockey player, he also made a mark as a great mentor. Pained by his demise. Condolences to his family and well wishers."
Balbir Senior was part of the Indian teams that won gold at the 1948 London Olympics, Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956. His record for most individual goals scored in an Olympic men's hockey final remains unbeaten. He had scored five goals in India's 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also paid his tributes and said: "Pained to learn about the demise of Padma Shri Balbir Singh Sr ji, a legendary hockey player, who left indelible imprint on world hockey with his stick. I was fortunate to have met the lively and joyful Balbir ji, a three time Olympic gold medalist. My condolences to his family."
"Deeply saddened by the tragic demise of India's legendary Hockey Player - Balbir Singh Sr. He was part of India's gold medal winning team at 1948 London, 1952 Helsinki & 1956 Melbourne Olympics. I pay my heartfelt tribute and pray for the eternal peace of the departed soul," said Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju.
"Saddened to learn about passing away of Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr. A Triple Olympic Gold medallist, he exemplified qualities of perseverance, dedication & sportsmanship. Sir, you will be dearly missed & will forever remain an inspiration! A grateful State bids you farewell," said Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
Balbir Sr was awarded the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian honour in 1957 and was conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Life Time Achievement Award by Hockey India in 2014.
He also became the only Asian male and only Indian among 16 athletes to be chosen as "Iconic Olympians" by the International Olympic Committee across the modern Olympics' history.