Singapore’s oldest Olympian, Indian origin Gill, dies at 95

Singapore's oldest Olympian,
Singapore's oldest Olympian, Ajit Singh Gill

SINGAPORE: Ajit Singh Gill, Singapore’s oldest Olympian and former national hockey player of Indian origin, passed away on Tuesday after battling end-stage renal failure. He was 95.

Gill is survived by his 92-year-old wife Surjit Kaur, five children, 10 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, The Straits Times reported.

“I was with him in his final moments. He had difficulty breathing and stared at me, and I believe he wanted to tell me to take care of myself,” his son, Mel Gill, told the newspaper.

“That was how he was, always concerned about others’ welfare, and very generous in his giving without expecting anything in return.”

Extending condolences to the family, Singapore National Olympic Council President Grace Fu said: “Ajit was the quintessential sportsman of his time… he remained active in Singapore sports after his competitive sporting career and participated in many activities. He will be greatly missed.”

Born in Kuala Lumpur in 1928, Gill was the oldest of 10 siblings, and his family moved to Singapore in 1953, where Gill attended the Teacher Training College. He played hockey and cricket for the Selangor Indian Association from 1948 to 1951 and for the state of Selangor in 1950.

A short corner specialist, he also played for the Singapore Indian Association from 1952 to 1975. Gill reached the pinnacle of sporting success in 1956, when he was selected to represent Singapore in the Melbourne Olympics. There, Singapore won two of its three preliminary matches, losing only to long-time champion, India.

Going further, he represented Singapore in matches against Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Belgium, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia.

In the 1960s, he switched to cricket, hitting fours and sixes with ease and thus earning his nickname — “big-hitting Sikh”.

After retiring from coaching cricket and hockey in 1985, he played golf and race walk. In 1990, he topped the Asean Senior Amateur Golf Championship and 26 years later, he claimed gold in the 5,000m race walk at the Asia Masters Athletics Championships on home soil.

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