But the former champion is pinning his hopes on 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG) gold medal winner discus thrower, Krishna Poonia for a podium finish at the quadrennial event in London.
“Leave aside a medal, till date only four Indian athletes — myself, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa (1964-Tokyo), middle-distance runner Sriram Singh (1976-Montreal) and PT Usha (1984-Los Angeles) have managed to reach the finals of their events in Olympics. In London, the chances of winning a medal are very less. But if Poonia does well, she could possibly win a bronze medal, but I cannot think of a gold.
“I wish to see an Indian win an Olympic medal in athletics before I die,” Milkha, who represented the country in the 1956-Melbourne, 1960-Rome and 1964-Tokyo Games, told MiD DAY yesterday.
Milkha, however, wanted coaches to be hired on contract basis for better results. “The best of facilities are available to modern day athletes, unlike our times when we used to practise barefoot. There are 40,000 coaches, best stadiums across the country, but no results. To ensure better results, we should hire coaches on contract basis like China do,” he added.
Milkha’s best chance of winning a medal came in Rome where he finished fourth in the 400m clocking 45.6 seconds. Otis Davis of USA won the gold with a timing of 44.9 seconds, German Carl Kaufmann won the silver while South African Malcolm Spence bagged the bronze medal. “A podium finish was almost a possibility. But in the final, I missed the medal by 1/100th of a second. I was heartbroken, and the thought of quitting the sport also came to my mind,” said Milkha.
The Chandigarh-based athlete and father of professional Indian golfer Jeev Milkha, revealed that his first Olympic Games in 1956 inspired him. “I was just 21 and fairly inexperienced during the Melbourne Games. I was eliminated in the first round. But watching American athlete Charles Jenkins, who won the gold medal in the 400m, inspired me to improve further. Since I didn’t know how to speak English, I took a friend along with me to meet him after the final, to know about his work ethics. Jenkins was gracious enough to give me his entire training schedule. I came back to India and followed his advice. Exactly after two years, I won the CWG gold and had won 77 races out of 80 between 1956 and 1960,” Milkha, who is nicknamed ‘The Flying Sikh’, signed off.