NEW DELHI: The entire country paid glowing tribute to Indian sprint legend Milkha Singh, who died on Friday, with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi describing him as a "colossal sportsperson who captured the nation's imagination".
Milkha died in a Chandigarh hospital after a month-long battle with COVID-19, during which 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."
Olympic bound star javelin throwers Neeraj Copra 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 Minster Amit Shah said the country lost one of the brightest stars of Indian sports. "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."
"A huge loss for the sport of athletics today. Rest well #MilkhaSingh ji," Olympica 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 RIP Milkha Singhji."
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 his sadness. "What an inspiration you were to the millions like us! There will be none like you sir. Rest in peace legend Milkha Singh Flag of India Woman bowing deeply," 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!"