New Delhi: The nation mourned the end of an era as it paid homage to nonagenarian sprint icon Milkha Singh, who died on Friday after battling COVID-19 for a month.
Milkha died at Chandigarh's PGIMER hospital, less than a week after he lost his wife Nirmal Kaur, a former national volleyball captain, to the same ailment.
He was 91 and is survived by his golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh and three daughters.
India's sporting fraternity also paid homage to one of its most inspiring figures, who continued to be a keen observer even after quitting the track.
Olympic-bound star javelin throwers Neeraj Chopra tweeted "We lost a Gem. He will always remain as an inspiration for every Indian. May his soul Rest in peace."
Condoling the death, Home Minister Amit Shah said the one of the brightest stars of Indian sports has been lost.
"India mourns the sad demise of legendary sprinter Shri Milkha Singh Ji, The Flying Sikh. He has left an indelible mark on world athletics. Nation will always remember him as one of the brightest stars of Indian sports. My deepest condolences to his family and countless followers"
Sports Authority of India (SAI) expressed "immense sadness at the demise of one of India's greatest ever sportspersons 'The Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh.
"A gold medalist at the CWG & Asian Games, he held the 400m National record for 38 years. Condolences to his family & the millions whom he inspired," the SAI said in a tweet.
Athletics Federation of India said in a tweet: "Very very sad news for all #Indians, legend Shri Milkha Singh Ji passed away."
AFI President Adille Sumariwalla called Milkha "a Titan who lifted the profile of athletics in a young nation..."
"...his sharp observations on Indian sport will be missed. His towering legacy will continue to inspire generations of young Indians. Rest in peace legend."
"A huge loss for the sport of athletics today. Rest well #MilkhaSingh ji," Olympian Anju Bobby George tweeted.
"Really shocked by the demise of the legend Milkha sir. You will forever have a very special place in my heart.The Flying Sikh will live forever. RIP" Indian sprinter Mohamad Anas Yahiya.
Former India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh also expressed also expressed his condolences on the micro-blogging site.
"Very sad,heartbreaking to hear flying sikh Sardar Milkha singh ji is no more... waheguru RIPMilkhaSinghji."
Indian tennis star Sania Mirza said "Had the honour of meeting you and you blessed me so many times .. the kindest and warmest Palms up together RIP Milkha Singh sir .. the world will miss a legend like you ..MilkhaSingh
"Really shocked and sad to learn about the passing away of the legend Milkha Singh ji. Om Shanti," Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia said.
Decorated doubles badminton player Jwala Gutta also joined in expressing her sadness.
"What an inspiration you were to the millions like us…. There will be none like you sir Rest in peace legend MilkhaSingh," she posted.
The official handle of the Indian football team also mourned Milkha's death.
"We join the nation in mourning the loss of the iconic 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh. His incredible achievements will continue to inspire future generations. May his soul rest in peace RIP."
Assam Chief Minsiter Himanata Biswa Sarma said: "Saddened at the demise of ‘Flying Sikh' Captain Milkha Singh. His laurels had not only made India swell with pride but also inspired generations of sports enthusiasts. My condolences to his family. Om Shanti!"
Indian wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha, squash player Joshna Chinappa and shooter Sanjeev Rajput also paid homage to the sprint icon.
"Saddened by the passing away of #MilkhaSingh ji. RIP the Flying Sikh. An inspiration for millions. A great loss to our nation," Saha tweeted.
"Very saddened to hear about the passing of Milkha Singh Sir. A True Legend and Champion. You will be greatly missed. RIP Sir," Chinappa wrote.
"A great loss to the nation. Rest in Peace legend #MilkhaSingh ji. Om Shanti," Rajput tweeted.
All India Football federation president Praful Patel said: "Deeply pained to learn about the passing of
'The Flying Sikh' Shri #MilkhaSingh Ji. The legendary athlete made India proud with his sporting achievements & his legacy will continue to be one of the most inspiring stories in Indian sports. May his soul rest in eternal peace"
"Sad to hear about the passing away of legendary Indian sprinter Sardar #MilkhaSingh . He will always remain an inspiration for all. Om Shanti," Union Minister Praksh Javadekar said. PTI