While not as famous as Milkha Singh – he hasn’t had a movie based on him – Gurbachan Singh Randhawa is perhaps the most versatile athlete India has ever produced. He was known as the ‘Indian Jim Thorpe’.
At the 1960 Delhi Nationals he broke Cheema Muthiah's national record with a tally of 5,793 points. He proved his remarkable versatility by also winning the high jump (sailing over six feet six inches), javelin (64.008 meters) and 110 metres hurdles (14.2 seconds) at the Nationals, breaking four national records over a span of two days. It was outstanding stuff and by the time, he reached the 1962 Asian Games – he was already an athlete to be reckoned with.
The gold at Jakarta only confirmed how good he was. He was also adjudged the Best Athlete from Asia by a panel of International Track and Field Statisticians during the 1962 Games at Jakarta, where he had bagged the gold in decathlon.
But he was plagued by a shoulder injury soon after the 1962 Asian Games; an injury which ruled him out of throwing events. He promptly started concentrating on the 110 metres hurdles under the guidance of a Hungarian coach, Kovacs. At the Asian Games, he was running the event in 15 seconds but by the time the Olympics came around in 1964, he had managed to shave a second off the time. He came in fifth in the final – never a quick starter but he had the stamina built from competing in the decathlon and that helped him.
He was the first Indian athlete to reach the final of the 110m hurdles event; he also became the first Asian athlete to do that. His record in the hurdles stood for 29 years and the decathlon record stood for 12 years.
Gurbachan Singh Randhawa’s Asian Games haul: 1 gold medal
1st: 1962 Asian Games – Decathlon
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Updated Date: Sep 15, 2014 12:36:11 IST