Hockey great Charanjit Singh, who led India to gold in Tokyo 1964, dies | Hockey - Hindustan Times
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Hockey great Charanjit Singh, who led India to gold in Tokyo 1964, dies

By, New Delhi
Jan 28, 2022 12:49 AM IST

The hockey legend, who was partially paralysed after suffering a stroke five years ago, leaves behind two sons and a daughter. His wife died 12 years ago. His last rites were performed on Thursday evening.

In India’s hockey history, 1964 is known as the year when the country regained its supremacy in the sport. Having lost the 1960 Rome Olympics final to nemesis Pakistan, India reclaimed the crown four years later in Tokyo, beating the same opposition.

Charanjit Singh(Twitter/ianuragthakur)
Charanjit Singh(Twitter/ianuragthakur)

At the centre of that golden moment was the team’s skipper, Charanjit Singh, who on Thursday morning passed away in Una, Himachal Pradesh, aged 92. The hockey legend, who was partially paralysed after suffering a stroke five years ago, leaves behind two sons and a daughter. His wife died 12 years ago. His last rites were performed on Thursday evening.

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“It is a sad day for the hockey fraternity,” Hockey India (HI) president Gyanendro Ningombam said. “Even in his old age, he would light up every time there were conversations about hockey and he could accurately recall every great moment he was part of India’s golden days of hockey.”

PM Modi condoles demise of hockey legend Charanjit Singh: ‘He played a key role in the successes of the Indian Hockey’

Singh was one of the architects of India’s dominating run at Rome 1960 when the then defending champions won all three group matches, the quarter-final and semi-final comprehensively. But an injury ruled the centre-half out of the summit clash, which they lost 0-1 to Pakistan. It marked the first time India did not return with a hockey gold from the Olympics.

Eager to get back the gold in Tokyo 1964, India stormed into the knockouts as group toppers, outclassed Australia 3-1 in the semi-final to set up their third consecutive Olympic final against Pakistan, which this time they won 1-0.

“The games against Australia in the semi-final and Pakistan in the final were very tough,” Singh had recalled in an interview with HI before last year’s Olympics in Tokyo, where India finally reached the podium after a gap of 41 years. “Both teams were regarded among the strongest during that time and we had a very challenging outing against them. You know how intense it becomes when you play against Pakistan that too in the final of the Olympics.”

The high-intensity game was also briefly interrupted by the umpires to cool down the tempers of the two sides. “I told my boys to focus on the game, rather than wasting time talking to them. We were tested hard but also showed great character,” Singh had said. “After winning gold, we were accorded a warm welcome on our arrival at the airport, a lot of fans had assembled, and it was a very special feeling for every one of us. Hockey was a very popular sport in India.”

Born on November 20, 1929, Singh was an alumnus of Col. Brown Cambridge School, Dehradun, and Punjab University. The charismatic halfback, who played centre-half at the 1964 Olympics, medalled in both the Games he took part in—silver in Rome 1960 and gold in Tokyo 1964. Singh was also part of the India squad that claimed silver at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta.

He was also accorded the Arjuna in 1963, becoming only the second men’s hockey player after colleague Prithipal Singh to be given the award. He was also honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, in 1964. After his illustrious career, Singh worked as Director of Physical Education in Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla.

“He was a legendary halfback who inspired an entire generation of players,” said Ningombam.

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