The Asian Games 2023 is going to be a big deal for Team Bharat. It’s not just any sporting event; it’s the perfect warmup before the much-awaited Paris Olympics. For many athletes, it’s also a golden opportunity to showcase their prowess on the international stage.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this year’s Asian Games is the renewed Bharat-Pakistan rivalry. This time, it’s not on the cricket pitch or the hockey field, but rather on the athletics track. Neeraj Chopra and Arshad Nadeem, two outstanding javelin throwers, will battle it out for regional supremacy. What makes this showdown even more exciting is that both athletes have already secured their spots in the Paris Olympics 2024.
However, did you know that this rivalry between Bharat and Pakistan in athletics dates back to 1958? Back then, the concept of Bharat-Pakistan matches wasn’t even cool. They were arch-rivals in the sport of field hockey, but the 1958 Asian Games, held in Tokyo, were less about their hockey rivalry and more about an epic showdown between two individual athletes – Milkha Singh and Abdul Khaliq.
Abdul Khaliq, known as the “Flying Bird of Asia,” was already an Asian legend. He had achieved the remarkable feat of qualifying for the semifinals in both the 100 meters and 200 meters sprints, becoming the first Asian to do so. On the other hand, Milkha Singh was slowly rising up the ranks of international athletics after facing disappointment in his debut at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
At the Tokyo Games, both Milkha Singh and Abdul Khaliq displayed their supremacy in the Men’s 100 meters and Men’s 400 meters events, respectively. However, the ultimate showdown was set to happen in the finals of the Men’s 200 meters, where Milkha Singh and Abdul Khaliq would go head-to-head for the gold.
Milkha Singh may have been a relative novice in international athletics, but he was determined to give his best shot. The race was fierce, with both sprinters giving it their all to reach the finish line first. As they approached the last stretch, Milkha Singh suddenly developed a cramp and tumbled along the finish line, just as Abdul Khaliq reached the tape. It was a nail-biting moment, ripe for a photo finish.
According to Milkha Singh’s own autobiography, the following minutes were filled with tension. Finally, the results were announced, and they turned out to be surprising. Contrary to Abdul Khaliq’s expectations, it was Milkha Singh who had emerged as the winner. He had breached the finish line tape first, with a timing of 21.6 seconds, while Abdul Khaliq clocked 21.7 seconds.
This victory marked the beginning of the rise of Milkha Singh, who would later become famous as “the Flying Sikh.” His remarkable journey from struggling to make a mark on the international stage to defeating an Asian legend in a dramatic showdown at the 1958 Asian Games was nothing short of extraordinary.
The Asian Games 2023 is undoubtedly a significant event for Team Bharat. It’s a chance for modern-day Indian athletes to create their own legendary moments, just like Milkha Singh did back in 1958. As they compete on the international stage, they carry the legacy of those who paved the way for them, including the Flying Sikh himself.
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