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Remembering Milkha Singh: Former sprint champion Kenneth Powell goes down memory lane | More sports News – Times of India

June 21, 2021

BENGALURU: Former national sprint champion and Olympian Kenneth Powell, who trained and competed with the legendary Milkha Singh recalled the the seven-week camp at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore in 1962 with particular fondness when the ‘Flying Sikh‘ showed his class and commitment despite not being in the best of form.
Powell, who was at the Tokyo Games along with Milkha (4x400m relay) and ran in the 4x100m with Anthony Coutinho, Makhan Singh and Rajasekaran Pichaya, said that in 1962 the Federation had conducted the camp in Bangalore with Olympic medallist Josh Culbreath as chief coach. “The Federation had organized a seven-week camp under American Culbreath, 400m hurdles bronze, 1956 Games. He put us through a lot of hard training during the first 2-3 weeks. We ran distances like 500 and 600m, followed by a 300m on our own with 10-minute breaks. Milkha ran the 500m 61.5 and 600, in 1:22sec even as I clocked 62.1 and 1:27s.”
“I was staying at the Central College campus while Milkha was at the Army camp. We were quite friendly. During the camp Milkha was not in the best of form but still he went to England and won an invitation race beating the British champion (Barry) Jackson,” Powell said of the legend.
“In Bangalore, his favourite joint was the old Shilton Hotel on St Mark’s Road. It was run by Sikh family and the owner’s daughter Dhurdhana Gill was a well-known hockey player and athlete. He and Makhan Singh used to get down at the Hotel for a cup of coffee,” Powell, who bettered Milkha’s Asian Games record in 200m, told TOI.
Cinder track and Adidas spikes
Powell said the track at the Kanteerava stadium was not in good shape. “I remember that was one of the few times we had the camp in Bangalore. Another was in 1964 – the pre-Olympics camp. Rest of the time, it was mostly in Moti Bagh palace (now Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports) in Patiala where the facilities were much better. The cinder track at Kanteerava (Sampangi stadium as it was known then) was not well maintained due to lack of water shortage. And since we couldn’t stay at the stadium we were put up at Central College.”
Powell said he loved the fluent running style of Milkha. “He had a cart-wheeling type of action and I loved it. His arm action was a bit awkward but the motion of his legs were perfect. We were all using the Roshan spikes made in Patiala while Milkha, then a world-class athlete, was running with Adidas spikes. I remember during one event, the company sent him a suitcase full of spikes.”
Powell also said it’s not well known that Milkha won the Helms World Trophy, given to the best sportsman in each hemisphere by the Helms Foundation, USA. “Only three other Indians – KD Singh Babu (hockey), Ramanathan Krishnan (tennis) and Jal D Padivala (technical official) – have won it.”
‘Greatest 400m race at the Olympics’
Powell said it was during the Euro tour that Milkha broke the 46-second barrier. “His record till then was 46.1s. In the final in Rome, which began with a world record of 45.2 in the name of American Lou Jones, Otis Davis and Carl Kaufmann both bettered the world record, Malcolm Spence and Milkha bettered the Olympic record and the fifth and sixth equalled the Olympic record. That would have been probably the greatest 400m race at the Olympics.”
“Im deeply saddened by the death of this great man. I consider Milkha the greatest Indian athlete of all time and it is a great loss not only to the athletic world but the entire sporting world,” Powell said.
Recalling the glory days, the 81-year-old Powell said: “My first memories of Milkha Singh are when I met him at the 19th National Games in New Delhi in February, 1960. Milkha ran all three the 100m, 200m and 400m and won all three gold medals. In the 100m finals, he clocked 10.4 seconds but it was not recognized as it was wind assisted. In the semifinals, Milkha had equalled the national record and I also got into record books two years later clocking 10.6s at the Indo-German meet at the same venue.”
Dronacharya coach VR Beedu recalled Milkha’s visit to the Kanteerava stadium in 2014. “There were a lot of young athletes around him and he was even enquiring about coach Lingappa who was also there at the 1962 camp,” Beedu said.

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