Balbir Singh, who won three Olympic hockey golds for India and became one of his country’s biggest sporting heroes, has died at the age of 95, his family said Monday.
Singh was in teams that won the Olympic title in London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952 and led the side that won in Melbourne in 1956. His five goals in the 6-1 defeat of the Netherlands in 1952 remain a record for an Olympic final.
India beat the former colonial power Great Britain 4-0 in the 1948 final which came only a few months after his country’s troubled independence.
Singh scored two of India’s goals at Wembley stadium and became one of the biggest stars of the Games. “I was on top of the world,” he said later.
“It was very special to beat the former rulers in their country.”
Singh was also the manager of the Indian side that won the 1975 World Cup. “He was a hard taskmaster,” said Ajit Pal Singh, who was captain of the 1975 team.
“I still remember how he imbibed, self-belief and unity which helped us to win,” Pal Singh told Press Trust of India news agency.
Singh was one of the key figures in India’s golden era of hockey dominance. The men’s team have not won an Olympic title since their eighth gold at the 1980 Moscow Games.
Singh had been in hospital after suffering three heart attacks in recent weeks.