Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday expressed his heartfelt condolences over the demise of legendary hockey player Balbir Singh Sr who passed away this morning at the age of 95 after battling multiple health issues in Mohali. The Prime Minister said he is “pained” by the loss of the veteran player who brought “lots of pride and laurels” to the nation.

“Padma Shri Balbir Singh Sr. Ji will be remembered for his memorable sporting performances. He brought home lots of pride and laurels. Undoubtedly a brilliant hockey player, he also made a mark as a great mentor. Pained by his demise. Condolences to his family and well wishers,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

The veteran hockey player had suffered a cardiac arrest on May 12 and after that, he suffered two more cardiac arrests during the course of his admission in the hospital. “Balbir Singh passed away this morning,” his grandson Kabir said in a statement on Monday.

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Balbir Singh Sr was a three-time Olympic gold champion. He played a key role in India’s Olympic victories in London (1948), as a vice-captain in Helsinki (1952) and as the captain in Melbourne (1956). In his illustrious playing career from 1947-1958, Balbir Sr won 61 international caps and scored a whopping 246 goals. He was also the manager of the 1975 World Cup-winning team.

As vice-captain of the team in 1952, he scored a hat-trick against Britain in the semifinals and five of India’s goals in its 6-1 win against Holland in the final. It is the record for the most goals in an Olympic Games hockey final. For Balbir Sr’s stellar contribution to the game, he was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour in 1957 and was conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Life Time Achievement Award by Hockey India in 2014. He also became the only Asian male and only Indian among 16 athletes to be chosen as “Iconic Olympians” by the International Olympic Committee across the modern Olympics’ history.

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