Balbir Singh Dosanjh (31 December 1923 – 25 May 2020)was a hockey player from India. He was a three-time Olympic gold champion having played a key role in India’s wins in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) (as Vice-Captain), and Melbourne (1956) (as Captain) Olympics. He is regarded as one of the greatest hockey players of all time, a modern-day Dhyan Chand, a legend of the sport and is widely regarded as the sport’s greatest ever center-forward. His Olympic record for most goals scored by an individual in an Olympic men’s hockey final remains unbeaten. Singh set this record when he scored five goals in India’s 6–1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal game of the 1952 Olympic Games. He was often called Balbir Singh Senior to distinguish him from other Indian hockey players named Balbir Singh.
Singh was the Manager and Chief Coach of the Indian team for the 1975 Men’s Hockey World Cup, which India won, and the 1971 Men’s Hockey World Cup, where India earned a bronze medal. During the London Olympics in 2012, Singh was honored in the Olympic Museum exhibition, “The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games” held at the Royal Opera House. The exhibition told the story of the Olympic Games from its creation in 776BC through to the London 2012 Olympic Games. He was one of the 16 iconic Olympians chosen whose example “tells of human strength and endeavor, of passion, determination, hard work and achievement and demonstrates the values of the Olympic Movement”.
Singh died at the age of 96 in Chandigarh on 25 May 2020.
London Olympics (1948)
Singh’s first appearance at the 1948 Summer Olympics was in the match against Argentina, India’s second match. After that he played in Final against Great Britain. Singh scored the first two goals and India won by 4–0.
Helsinki Olympics (1952)
Singh was vice-captain of the 1952 Olympic team, with K. D. Singh as the Captain. Balbir was India’s flag bearer in the opening ceremony. He scored a hat trick against Britain in the semi-final, which India won 3–1. He scored five goals in India’s 6–1 win against the Netherlands setting a new Olympic record for most goals scored by an individual in an Olympic final in men’s field hockey. The previous holder of this record was England’s Reggie Pridmore with his four goals in England’s 8–1 victory over Ireland in the 1908 Olympic final. Singh scored nine of India’s total 13 goals at the Helsinki Olympics, 69.23% of the team’s goals.
Melbourne Olympics (1956)
Singh, captain of the 1956 Olympic team, scored five goals in the opening match against Afghanistan but was then injured. Randhir Singh Gentle captained the rest of the group matches. Singh had to skip the group matches but played in the semi-final and the final. India won the final match against Pakistan with a result of 1–0. In a total of 8 Olympic matches, he played he scored 22 goals for his nation.
Awards and achievements
Singh was the first sports personality to be honored with the Padma Shri award, in 1957.He and Gurdev Singh were featured on a stamp issued in 1958 by the Dominican Republic to commemorate the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He lit the Sacred Flame at the Asian Games 1982 held in New Delhi. In the year 2006 he was named the Best Sikh Hockey Player. Describing himself as a secular nationalist, he stated that he was not convinced about the idea of having a religion-based list of players, but accepted the award since he believed it might be good for the promotion of Indian hockey. Also, in a national poll conducted by the Patriot newspaper in the year 1982 he was adjudged to be the Indian Sportsperson of the Century. In 2015, he was conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award of Hockey India.
His paternal grandparents were Dosanjh from the Punjabi village of Pawadra and maternal grandparents were Dhanoa from the village Haripur Khalsa. Both are in Tehsil Phillaur in District Jalandhar in Punjab. Balbir’s father Dalip Singh Dosanjh was a freedom fighter. Balbir’s wife Sushil was from Model Town, Lahore. They got married in 1946. They had a daughter Sushbir and three sons Kanwalbir, Karanbir, Gurbir, and are settled in Vancouver, Canada. In Walk the Talk program telecast on NDTV on 02/07/06 he revealed to Shekha Gupta that his three daughters-in-law are from China, Singapore, and Ukraine respectively.
Reason of Death
He is suffering from bronchopneumonia.