Balbir Singh Sr.
1956- Melbourne Olympic Victory Ceremony.jpg
Melbourne Olympic Victory Ceremony
Personal information
Birth nameBalbir Singh Dosanjh
Born(1923-12-31)31 December 1923[1]
Haripur Khalsa, Punjab, British India
Died25 May 2020(2020-05-25) (aged 96)[2]
Mohali, Punjab, India[3]
Alma materDev Samaj High School, Moga
DM College, Moga
Sikh National College, Lahore
Khalsa College, Amritsar
SportField hockey
Event(s)Field Hockey Men's team
TeamIndia (International)
Punjab State (National)
Punjab Police (National)
Punjab University (National)

Balbir Singh Dosanjh (31 December 1923 – 25 May 2020)[4] was an Indian hockey player and coach.[1] He was a three-time Olympic gold medallist, having played a key role[5] in India's wins in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) (as vice captain), and Melbourne (1956) (as captain) Olympics.[6] He is regarded as one of the greatest hockey players of all time,[7] a modern-day Dhyan Chand,[8][9] a legend[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] of the sport, and is widely regarded as the sport's greatest ever centre-forward.[9][10] His Olympic record for most goals scored by an individual in an Olympic men's hockey final remains unbeaten.[17] Singh set this record when he scored five goals in India's 6–1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal game of the 1952 Olympic Games. He was often called Balbir Singh Senior to distinguish him from other Indian hockey players named Balbir Singh. Singh scored 246 goals from just 61 international caps

Singh was the manager and chief coach of the Indian team for the 1975 Men's Hockey World Cup, which India won, and the 1971 Men's Hockey World Cup, where India earned a bronze medal. During the London Olympics in 2012, Singh was honoured in the Olympic Museum exhibition, "The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games,” held at the Royal Opera House.[18] The exhibition told the story of the Olympic Games from its creation in 776BC through to the London 2012 Olympic Games. He was one of the 16 iconic Olympians recognized[19] as an example "of human strength and endeavour, of passion, determination, hard work and achievement and demonstrates the values of the Olympic Movement".[20]

Singh died at the age of 96 in Mohali on 25 May 2020.[21][22]

Early years

Balbir Singh Dosanjh was born in a Jat Sikh family to Karam Kaur and Dalip Singh Dosanjh. His father was a freedom fighter who was absent most of Singh’s early years due to being frequently jailed. At the age of twelve, Singh saw a newsreel on India's 1936 Olympic hockey triumph, which sparked his interest in hockey. He was later spotted as a promising hockey player by the coach of Khalsa College hockey team. While at Khalsa, Singh led the team to three consecutive championships as captain and was soon playing for the Punjab state team. He helped the Punjab state team win two consecutive national titles in 1946 and 1947.[23]


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London Olympics (1948)

Singh's first appearance at the 1948 London Olympics was in the match against Argentina, India's second match. After that he played in Final against Great Britain. Singh scored the first two goals and India won by 4–0.

Helsinki Olympics (1952)

Singh was vice-captain of 1952 Olympic team, with K. D. Singh as the Captain. Balbir was India's flag bearer in the opening ceremony. He scored a hat trick against Britain in semi-final, which India won 3–1. He scored five goals in India's 6–1 win against the Netherlands setting a new Olympic record for most goals scored by an individual in an Olympic final in men's field hockey. The previous holder of this record was England's Reggie Pridmore with his four goals in England's 8–1 victory over Ireland in the 1908 Olympic final. Singh scored nine of the India's total 13 goals at the Helsinki Olympics, 69.23% of the team's goals.

In 1954, he captained the Indian Hockey Federation XI side that toured Malaya and Singapore. India won all 16 matches played, with Singh top-scoring for his team with 44 goals in the tour.[24]

Melbourne Olympics (1956)

Singh, captain of the 1956 Olympic team, scored five goals in the opening match against Afghanistan, but was then injured. Randhir Singh Gentle captained the rest of the group matches. Singh had to skip the group matches, but played in the semi-final and the final. India won the final match against Pakistan with a result of 1–0. In total of 8 Olympic matches he played he scored 22 goals for his nation


In 1957, Singh became the first recipient of the Padma Shri award in the sports category.[25] He was also a member of the Indian hockey team that won the silver medal at the 1958 Asian Games.[26] He coached the 1971 Indian hockey team for the Hockey World Cup, where India earned the bronze medal.[27] In 1975, he was the manager of the victorious Indian World Cup hockey team.[28] He wrote two books: his autobiography The Golden Hat Trick (1977) and The Golden Yardstick: In Quest of Hockey Excellence (2008).[29]

Awards and achievements

In 1957, Singh was the first sports personality to be honoured with the Padma Shri award.[30] He and Gurdev Singh were featured on a stamp issued in 1958 by Dominican Republic to commemorate the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

He lit the Sacred Flame at the Asian Games 1982 held at New Delhi. That same year, he was adjudged to be the Indian Sportsperson of the Century in a national poll conducted by the Patriot newspaper.

In 2006, he was named the Best Sikh Hockey Player. Describing himself as a secular nationalist, he stated that he was not convinced about the idea of having a religion-based list of players, but accepted the award since he believed it might be good for the promotion of Indian hockey.[31] In 2015, he was conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award of Hockey India.

On May 25th, 2021, the Mohali International Hockey Stadium was renamed the Olympian Balbir Singh Senior International Hockey Stadium in honor of his death anniversary.[32][33]

Erroneous reports

Although the record for most goals by an individual in an Olympic final belongs to Singh there have been many erroneous media reports over the years claiming that Dhyan Chand scored six goals in India's 8–1 victory over Germany in the 1936 Olympic final. In his autobiography titled "Goal!", however, published in 1952 by Sport & Pastime, Chennai, Chand wrote:

“When Germany was four goals down, a ball hit Allen's pad and rebounded. The Germans took full advantage of this and made a rush, netting the ball before we could stop it. That was the only goal Germany would score in the match against our eight, and incidentally the only goal scored against India in the entire Olympic tournament. India's goal-getters were Roop Singh, Tapsell and Jaffar with one each, Dara two and myself three.

Additionally, the International Hockey Federation records also attribute only three of the eight goals to Chand in the Berlin Olympic final.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Olympic Captains of India". Hockey India. Archived from the original on 13 July 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  2. ^ "Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr dies at the age of 95". The Times of India. 25 May 2020. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  3. ^ "Hockey Olympian Balbir Singh Sr passes away at a hospital in Mohali in Punjab". ANI on Twitter. 25 May 2020. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  4. ^ Oldest Living Olympians
  5. ^ "Singh on song for India". IOC. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  6. ^ Balbir Singh Senior stakes claim for Bharat Ratna. The Tribune, 24 April 2012.
  7. ^ Gillis, Charlie (6 March 2016). "The greatest hockey player ever". Maclean's Magazine. Toronto. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Champions of the stick and ball". IOC News. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Balbir (Sr.) — a class act". The Hindu. 14 July 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Legendary hockey star Balbir Singh takes you back... to 1948!". IOC News. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  11. ^ "1948 Olympics: Record fourth gold medal for India". The Hindu. 9 July 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr meets MS Dhoni & co". The Indian Express. 26 March 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  13. ^ "Before Akshay Kumar's Gold, a look at his muse: Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr". FirstPost. 6 November 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Balbir Singh Sr: Forgotten legend of India's Olympic glory". The Times Of India. 31 July 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr. honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award". Zee News. 28 March 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  16. ^ "Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr honoured in Canada". Hindustan Times. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  17. ^ Most Goals scored by an Individual in an Olympic Hockey Final (Male). Guinness World Records
  18. ^ The personal stories of 16 great Olympians
  19. ^ One of the 16 iconic Olympians – Times of India
  20. ^ The Olympic Journey: The Story of The Games
  21. ^ "Hockey Legend Balbir Singh Sr Passes Away". OdishaTv. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  22. ^ Sen, Rohan (25 May 2020). "Balbir Singh Sr December 31, 1923 to May 25, 2020: In honour of a legend who redefined Indian hockey". India Today.
  23. ^ "BIOGRAPHY Balbir Singh Dosanjh".
  24. ^ "The Indians succeed in their mission". The Straits Times. 11 March 1954. p. 14. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  25. ^ "Padma Shri Award". Hockey India.
  26. ^ "Hockey: Balbir Singh Junior, part of India's 1958 Asian Games silver medal-winning team, dies at 88". 13 April 2021.
  27. ^ "Indian Coaches in Men's Hockey World Cups". Hockey Passion. Retrieved 18 November 2022.
  28. ^ Saurabh Duggal (26 May 2020). "Balbir Singh Senior, a man who never let India down".
  29. ^ "Factbox: Balbir Singh Sr - Hockey legend, three Olympic gold medals, author". 25 May 2020.
  30. ^ Padma Awards Directory (1954–2007) Archived 10 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Ministry of Home Affairs.
  31. ^ Balbir (Sr.) gets the top accolade
  32. ^ "Mohali hockey stadium renamed after Balbir Singh Sr to mark his death anniversary". ESPN. 25 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  33. ^ "Mohali international hockey stadium renamed after Balbir Singh Senior". India Tribune. 26 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  34. ^ The International Hockey Federation website

Further reading

Olympic Games Preceded byTalimeran Ao Flagbearer for India Helsinki 1952 Succeeded byBalbir Singh Sr. Preceded byBalbir Singh Sr. Flagbearer for India Melbourne 1956 Succeeded byGurbachan Singh Randhawa