Major Dhyan Chand Singh:
India’s hockey wizard, Major Dhyan Chand Singh was born on 29th August 1905 in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. The title “Chand” (Moon) was given by his first coach, who predicted that he would one day shine like the chand (Moon).
His father was in the Army. Dhyan Chand followed in the footsteps of his father and joined the army at the young age of 16. He was selected to represent India in the 1928 Summer Olympics. India won the hockey gold in this Olympics and Dhyan Chand scored two goals in the final match.
He led the Indian hockey team in the 1936 Summer Olympics final. Though he was initially refused permission by his regiment to participate in the 1936 Olympics, they finally relented. The German supreme leader Adolf Hitler had sought to use the 1936 Berlin Olympics to prove his theory of ‘Aryan Supremacy’. But the stupendous performances of American black athlete Jesse Owens and India’s Dhyan Chand blew holes in his theory. He was so impressed by India’s performance in the final which India won 8-1 that he offered the post of Colonel if Dhyan Chand migrated to Germany, which Dhyan Chand politely declined.
He continued playing till the age of 42 and retired from competitive hockey in 1948. The city of Vienna, Austria, honoured him by setting up his statue. The other statues of this legendary sportsman are in New Delhi and at Medak in Andhra Pradesh. He is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan award, which was awarded to him in 1956. His birthday on 29th August is celebrated as National Sports Day in India. He passed away on 3rd December 1979.
Milkha Singh is a former Indian track and field sprinter. The “Flying Sikh” Milkha Singh was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan on 8th October 1935. He is the only male athlete of India to win individual athletics Gold in the Commonwealth Games. Milkha Singh was also awarded the Padma Shri Award by the President of India in 1959 for his achievements in Sports.
Milkha Singh is married to Nirmal Kaur. She was the former captain of the Indian Women Volleyball team. His son, Jeev Milkha Singh, has gone on to become a top-ranking international professional golfer.
Milkha Singh tried to enrol in the army, but was rejected thrice. He was finally able to join in the army’s electrical mechanical engineering branch in 1952. Once in the Armed Forces, his coach Havildar Gurdev Singh inspired him. He sweated it out every day and worked very hard on his practice. He came into the limelight during the National Games at Patiala in 1956. In 1958, he broke the 200 metres and 400 meters records in the National Games at Cuttack.
His greatest and probably the saddest moment came when he finished fourth in a photo finish at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He also represented the country in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He held the Olympic 400 m record in the 1960 Rome Olympics, besides winning the Gold medal in the 1958 Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games in 1958 (in the 200m & 400 m categories) and the Asian Games in 1962 (in 200 metres).
It was a race in Pakistan in 1962, where he defeated Abdul Khaliq, the winner of the 100 metres gold at the Tokyo Asian Games, where he was christened the ‘The Flying Sikh” by the Pakistani President Ayub Khan.
Milkha Singh’s life story has been portrayed in a biographical film, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, which has been directed by Rakeysh Mehra, starring Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor. He feels that the film should be an inspiration to the youngsters as he wants youngsters to watch this movie and join athletics, making India proud by winning medals at the world level.
Subedar Major Vijay Kumar, AVSM, SM:
Born on 19th August 1985, Vijay Kumar is an Indian sport shooter and is from the Barsar village of Hamirpur district, Himachal Pradesh. He is currently serving as a Subedar Major in the Dogra Regiment (16th Battalion) Indian Army and has been posted at the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) at Mhow in Indore District, Madhya Pradesh where he is coached by Pavel Smirnov. The 29-year-old leapfrogged into the limelight following his heroics at the 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne with the gold medals in the 25 metre Rapid fire Pistol events. However, he didn’t fade into the oblivion and bettered his performance from 581 to 787.5 at the subsequent edition in Delhi; thus setting a new Final Games Record.
In 2007, he received an Arjuna Award in the sport of shooting. At the 2012 London Olympics, Vijay Kumar earned a silver medal in the 25m rapid fire pistol event and is currently supported by the Olympic Gold Quest initiative.
In the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, Vijay finished fourth but got a bronze medal because of a rule that disallowed China from getting all three medals. In 2007, he won a silver medal in 25m centre-fire pistol event at the Asian Championship. In the 2009 ISSF World Cup held in Beijing, he was defeated by 0.1 points by Keith Sanderson and won a silver medal in the 25m rapid fire pistol event.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games, held in Delhi was very grand for him as he gave a stunning performance winning three gold medals and one silver medal. The first gold medal was in the Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol pairs where Vijay Kumar and Gurpreet Singh scored 1162 points setting a new Commonwealth games record. The second gold medal was in the Men’s 25m rapid fire pistol singles and the third gold medal was in the Men’s 25m centre fire pistol pairs along with Harpreet Singh. He won a silver medal in the Men’s 25m centre fire pistol singles with a score of 574 and the Gold was won by Harpreet Singh with a score of 580.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Vijay Kumar succeeded in winning a Silver Medal in the 25 m rapid fire pistol event. This was his first Olympics and he got India its second individual Silver medal in any Olympics and the second medal for the 2012 Olympics. At his success at the 2012 Olympics, the Himachal Pradesh government awarded his achievement with the “Himachal Gaurav Award”, a cash prize of 1 crore rupees and a residential plot in Solan District, Himachal Pradesh.
Daughter of an Indian Navy Officer, Ravindra Sawant, Tejaswini was born in Kolhapur on 12th September 1980. She represented India in 2004 at the 9th South Asian Sports Federation Games. She has been supported by the Olympic Gold Quest. In the 2006 Common Wealth Games, she won gold medals in Women’s 10m Air Rifle Singles and Women’s 10m Air Rifle pairs.In 2009, in 50m Rifle three positions she won a bronze and in 2010 she became a world champion in 50m Rifle Prone game held in Germany. In 2010 Common Wealth Games she won two silver medals and one bronze medal in the Women’s 50m Rifle Prone Singles, Women’s 50m Rifle 3 positions and Women’s 50m Rifle Prone Pairs respectively. Tejaswini was the first Indian woman shooter to win a gold medal at the World Championships in 50 m Rifle Prone game.
Tejaswini is also the First Indian Woman to win Gold at World Championships in shooting and the Fifth world record holder in India after Gagan Narang, Suma Shirur, Ronjan Singh Sodhi and Asher Noria.
She received the Arjuna Award from the Government of India in 2011.
Jitu Rai is being touted as a future Olympic gold medallist.
Born in Nepal, there has been a lot of controversy over Rai’s nationality. However, his entry into the Indian Army has all but proved those rumours wrong.
Based in Lucknow, Rai is being publicised as the next Abhinav Bindra, in terms of winning the country an Olympic medal. His father died in 2006, which prompted his move to India from Nepal. He joined the 11 Gorkha Regiment in 2006 as a Sepoy and eventually moved up the ladder to the rank of Naib-Subedar. Despite making it into the Army shooting team, he failed to impress and was sent back. But, it was at the 2011 National Games where he was at his best. What was to follow was a string of results, which would see him reach the number one position in the world. Gold medals at the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games have set the Olympic stage perfectly for Rai. In 2014, at the ISSF World Cup in Munich, he won the silver medal in the 10 metre air pistol event. Following this, in Maribor, Rai won two medals; silver in the 50 metre pistol event, and gold in the 10 metre air pistol event. In the process, he won three medals in nine days at the World Cup and also became the first person to have won two medals at a single world cup for India. Following his achievements, he was ranked number 1 in the world, in 10 metre air pistol and number 4, in 50 metre pistol, in July 2014.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Rai created the Games record in the qualification round of the 50 metre pistol event, having scored 562 points. He went on to win the gold medal in the event, scoring 194.1 points in the final, thus creating another Games record.
In the 2014 Asian Games held at Incheon in South Korea, Rai won the gold medal in the 50 m pistol category.He also won a bronze in the men’s 10 m air pistol team event.
The Army not only gave Rai a sporting career, but also a new lease of life.