Balbir Singh Dosanji, the most decorated hockey player of independent India, died at the age of 95 following a cardiac arrest in Mohali on Monday.
He had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit on Friday in a multiple-organ affected state and just when his condition had started to improve, he suffered a heart attack.
“He died at around 6:30 this morning,” Abhijit Singh, Director Fortis Hospital, Mohali, where he was admitted on May 8, told PTI.
Popularly known as Balbir Singh Sr, he was an integral part of Indian hockey’s three successive Olympic gold medal-winning campaigns starting from 1948 to 1956, when he was also the captain of the team.
Balbir Singh Sr still holds the record for the most number of goals in an Olympic final. He had scored five goals in the 6-1 win over Netherlands in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
Born in Haripur Khalsa village in Punjab, Balbir Singh Sr learned the ropes of hockey in Moga and then Lahore before he shifted to Khalsa College, Amritsar, which proved to be a turning point in his career.
The country’s independence and ensuing partition meant that many good players from Punjab opted to play for Pakistan and that opened up an opportunity for him to make it to the 1948 London Olympic squad.
Though a rookie, Balbir Singh made a mark in the limited opportunities that he got and went on to become an important figure in Indian hockey.
The three-time Olympic gold medallist, who was named among the 16 iconic Olympians at the 2012 London Olympics, also played a part in grooming the next generation players and was the manager and coach of the team when India won their only World Cup gold in 1975.
He had not been keeping well in the last few years and had spent over 100 days in the hospital from October 2018 to January 2019 due to bronchial pneumonia and near cardiac failure but had made a complete recovery.