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Balbir Singh senior is the only Indian athlete to lead the Olympic contingent twice, 1952 & 56 Games
Legendary hockey player late Balbir Singh Senior is the only sportsperson in the Indian Olympic history, who has the distinction of leading the Olympic contingent on two occasions. He was the flag bearer in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics he was captain of the Indian men’s hockey team as well as the flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
The Olympic record of scoring maximum number of goals in the men’s hockey final – five goals in the India’s 6-1 victory against Netherlands for the 1952 gold – still stands in the name of late Balbir Singh Senior. In the semifinal, he scored all the three goals against Britain (3-0). He was part of the team that won the country’s first Olympic gold in the post-independence era --- 1948 Olympics. And in the final playing against Britain, he scored two of the four goals. In 1956 Melbourne Olympics, he got an opportunity to lead the team and eventually he completed his golden hat-trick. He was manager of the team that won the 1975 world cup.
India, only 362 days old as a country and forced to rebuild the hockey team because a number of key players had chosen to play for Pakistan, beat Great Britain 4-0 in the final with Singh scoring twice. 1948 London Olympics' gold was Independent India's first Olympic medal.
At the 1948 Games, players from Pakistan, Singh wrote in his autobiography ‘The Golden Hat Trick’, who were teammates till months ago, would keep their distance. One friendship though was revived in March 2005 when Shazada Muhammad Shahrukh, who along with his brother Shazada Khurram played for Punjab with Singh, visited Mohali during an India-Pakistan cricket Test.
Balbir Singh senior passed away at the age of 96 in May, 2020.