Winner of three Olympic gold medals, he was the only Indian among 16 legends chosen by the International Olympic Committee across modern Olympic history.
The hockey maestro had been fighting a pulmonary illness over the last two years, with multiple admissions to the intensive care unit.
He latest admission to the hospital was on May 8 and he breathed his last on May 25. Here’s a factbox on the legend:
Name: Balbir Singh Dosanjh (Sr)
Date of Birth: 19/10/1924
Place of Birth: Haripur, Jalandhar
Employer/Domestic Team: Punjab Police
Position: Centre forward
International Debut: May 1947
Last International: May 1958
Olympic Appearances: London 1948 (Gold), Helsinki 1952 (Gold), Melbourne 1956 (Gold)
Olympic Captaincy: Melbourne 1956
The legend of Balbir Singh Sr
Balbir Singh Sr made his international debut on India’s 1947 tour of Sri Lanka.
In his debut at the Olympics against Argentina in the 1948 Games in London, Balbir smashed six goals and continued his form in the final against Great Britain, scoring two goals in India’s first Olympic gold medal win as an independent nation.
Balbir Singh was India’s flag-bearer at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.
Of India’s 13 goals at the Helsinki Olympics, Balbir Singh scored nine, including a hat-trick in the semifinal against Great Britain. He upped his game in the final, scoring five goals, which still stands as a Guinness World Record for most goals scored by an individual in an Olympic hockey final.
Balbir Singh was appointed India’s captain for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. Here too he carried India’s flag at the opening ceremony.
The Government of India awarded the Padma Shri to Balbir Singh Sr in 1957, making him the first hockey player to receive the honour.
TOISA 2019: Balbir Singh Sr named Icon of the Century
After his retirement, Balbir Singh Sr continued to serve hockey and was the Manager of the India’s World Cup-winning team of 1975, which was led by Ajit Pal Singh.
He was given the honour of lighting the torch at the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi.
Balbir Singh Sr also served as Secretary of the Punjab State Sports Council and Director of Sports in the Punjab Government
He retired from his Punjab Government duties in 1992.
In 1977, Balbir Singh Sr. published his autobiography: ‘The Gold Hat Trick: My Hockey Days’.
In 2008, he published a second book, ‘The Golden Yardstick: In Quest of Hockey Excellence’.
In July 2019, the Punjab Government awarded the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award for excellence in sports to Balbir Singh Sr while he was recuperating from a pulmonary illness.