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Indian hockey great Charanjit Singh dies at 90

Indian hockey legend Charanjit Singh Twitter.com/Media_SAI

Charanjit Singh, captain of India's 1964 Tokyo Olympics gold medal-winning hockey team, died on Thursday at his home in Una, Himachal Pradesh after prolonged age-related illnesses.

The former mid-fielder was 90. He is survived by two sons and one daughter.

Charanjit suffered a stroke five years back and was paralysed since then. "Dad was paralysed after suffering a stroke five years back. He used to walk with a stick but since the last couple of months, his health deteriorated and this morning he left us. His last rites will be performed today after my sister reaches Una from Delhi," his younger son VP Singh told PTI.

Born on 20 November 1929, the two-time Olympian was a part of India's glory days in hockey. A charismatic halfback, Charanjit had led the Indian team to a historic gold medal in 1964 Tokyo Olympics, beating Pakistan in the final. He was also part of the team that won silver in the 1960 Games in Rome. He was one of the architects of India's stunning performance at the 1960 Olympics before an unfortunate injury forced him to sit out of the final against arch-rivals Pakistan, which they lost by a slender 0-1 margin.

The 1960 disappointment still fresh in his mind, a Charanjit-led India turned the tables around four years later, defeating Pakistan by the same margin to clinch the gold medal. He was also a part of the 1962 Asian Games silver-winning team.

Recollecting the fond memory in the lead-up to last year's Tokyo Olympics, Charanjit had told Hockey India Flashback Series: "Both the teams were regarded among the strongest teams during that time, and we had a very challenging outing against them. Moreover, you know, how intense it becomes when you play against Pakistan that too in the final of the Olympics. The match was also interrupted briefly to cool down the tempers of both teams. I told my boys to focus on the game, rather than wasting time talking to them. We were tested hard but also showed great character, and won the match by a narrow 1-0 margin to return home with that historic gold medal."

Speaking further about his Olympic achievements, Charanjit had said, "Winning two medals for the country has been a moment of pride and honour for me. You know, after winning the gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, we were accorded a warm welcome on our arrival at the airport, a lot of fans had assembled, and it was a very special feeling for every one of us." "Hockey was a very popular sport in India. It was given more importance because of the rich history, and our country had dominated in this sport in early years. We had won many gold medals at a prestigious event like the Olympics, and that was the key reasons behind it."

Charanjit was an alumni of Col Brown Cambridge School, Dehradun and Punjab University. After his illustrious career in international hockey, he worked as the director of the physical education department in Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla.