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Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr. critical after cardiac arrest

Balbir Singh scored 22 goals for India at the Olympics. Jonathan Selvaraj/ESPN

Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr on Tuesday suffered a cardiac arrest and his condition remains critical, his grandson Kabir said in a medical update.

The 96-year-old, a triple Olympic gold medallist, was hospitalised in Mohali on May 8 following a 104-degree fever. On Sunday, he tested negative for COVID-19 but remained in critical condition as he battled bronchial pneumonia.

"Nanaji was admitted on Friday, 8th May in a very serious multi-organ affected state. His condition had improved slightly but was and is still critical now. Doctors will be continuously assessing his condition over the next 24-48 hours, before any further statements about his condition are issued. He continues to be on ventilator assistance," Kabir said.

In January last year, Balbir Sr was discharged from PGI after spending 108 days in the hospital, where he underwent treatment for bronchial pneumonia.

His career played out between the early years of India's hockey supremacy in the days of Dhyan Chand and the later generations who found it difficult to dominate at the highest levels.

Balbir, who played as a centre-forward, was a key member of the Indian team that won gold at the 1948 (London), 1952 (Helsinki) and 1956 (Melbourne) Olympics. His world record for most goals scored by an individual in the men's hockey final of the Olympics still remains unbeaten. He had scored five goals in India's 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Games.

For his contributions to hockey, he was awarded the Padma Shri in 1957, making him the first sportsperson to earn India's fourth-highest civilian honour.

Balbir was one of just four Indians to have won three Olympic gold medals since Independence, alongside teammates Leslie Claudius, Randhir Singh Gentle and Raganathan Francis. Claudius, who died in 2012, also captained India to silver at the 1960 Games, making him the only athlete to exceed Balbir's haul of three medals.