India mourned the end of an era as it paid homage to sprint icon Milkha Singh, who died on Friday after battling COVID-19 for a month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes by describing him as a "colossal sportsperson".
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.
"In the passing away of Shri Milkha Singh Ji, we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation's imagination and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians," PM Modi said in a tweet. "His inspiring personality endeared himself to millions. Anguished by his passing away."
India's athletes also paid homage to one of its most inspiring figures, who continued to be a keen observer even after quitting the track. Tokyo Olympics-bound Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra tweeted, "We lost a Gem. He will always remain as an inspiration for every Indian. May his soul Rest in peace."
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.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted, "Milkha Singh Ji has left us but he will continue to inspire every Indian to shine for India."
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.
Many across verticals also paid their respects to the departed star of Indian athletics.
Milkha Singh was a four-time Asian Games gold-medallist and the 1958 Commonwealth Games champion but his greatest performance was a near miss, the fourth place finish in the 400m final of the 1960 Rome Olympics.
His timing at the Italian capital remained the national record for 38 years and he was bestowed the Padma Shri in 1959.