Overview of Balbir Singh Sr
Balbir Singh Sr. (born October 19, 1924 in Haripur Khalsa) is a retired field hockey player from India, who was a member of three Olympic gold medal winning teams, in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). He was born in Haripur Khalsa, Punjab.
He coached the Indian team for the 1971 Men's Hockey World Cup in which India won the silver medal. He was the manager of the Indian team for the 1975 Men's Hockey World Cup which India won.
He saw a movie on India's 1936 Olympic Hockey Team's triumph and it got etched in his mind for ever. He was deeply inspired by Dhyan Chand's jugglery with the hockey stick. Eventually, he played in the same position, in which Dhyan Chand played: center forward.
Balbir was spotted as a promising hockey player by Harbail Singh, who was the then coach of Khalsa College Hockey team. It was Harbail who repeatedly insisted that Balbir took a transfer from Sikh National College, Lahore to Khalsa College, Amritsar. Finally, Balbir got the permission from his family to take the transfer to Khalsa College in 1942. Then he started intensive training and practice sessions under Harbail's guidance. Later, Harbail coached the successful Indian National Hockey team in Helsinki Olympics and Melbourne Olympics.
Khalsa College had great sporting atmosphere with four hockey pitches. In 1942-43, Balbir got selected to represent Punjab University, which at that time, covered colleges from a big region consisting of undivided Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Sindh and Rajasthan. Punjab University team won All India Inter-University titles for 3 years in a row - 1943, 1944 and 1945.
Balbir was a member of the last team of undivided Punjab that won the title in 1947 Nationals under the captaincy of Colonel AIS Dara. Balbir played in center forward position in this team. After this win, they were welcomed back very heartily in Lahore. But by then, disturbances due to partition of India had already started. He moved his family to Ludhiana, where he was posted in Punjab Police.
Partition had a big impact on Punjab hockey team, which got divided between the two new nations: India and Pakistan.
His first appearance was in the second match, against Argentina. In this match he scored 6 goals, including a hat trick. India won by 9-1 goals. He played in the final match against Britain. This was the first encounter of India and Britain in Olympics. Balbir scored twice and India won by 4-0 goals. This gold medal was independent India's first major achievement in the world of sports.
Balbir was ViceCaptain of the team, K. D. Singh Babu was the Captain. Balbir was India's flag bearer in the opening ceremony. He scored a hat trick against Britain in semifinal, which India won by 3-1 goals. He scored another hat trick in final match against Holland, and scored 5 goals in India's win against Holland by 6-1 margin. He scored a total of 9 goals in Helsinki.
Balbir, captain of the team, scored 5 goals in the opening match against Afghanistan, but then got badly injured. Randhir Singh Gentle captained the rest of the group matches. Balbir had to skip the group matches, but played in the semifinal and final matches. India won the final match against Pakistan with 1-0 result.
In 1957, he became the first recipient of the Padma Shri award in Sports category. He was also a member of the Indian hockey team that won the silver medal at the 1958 Asian Games as well as the 1962 Asian Games. He lit the Sacred Flame at the Asian Games 1962 which were held in New Delhi. He coached the 1971 Indian Hockey Team for World Cup Hockey, where India got the silver medal. In 1975, he was the Manager of the World Cup Hockey winning Indian Team.
His paternal grandparents are Dosanjh and maternal grandparents are from the Punjabi village of Haripur Khalsa. Balbir's father Dalip Singh was a freedom fighter. Balbir's wife Sushil was from Model Town, Lahore. They got married in 1946. They have a daughter Sushbir and three sons Kanwalbir, Karanbir, Gurbir.