The International Hockey Federation (FIH) paid glowing tributes to legendary Balbir Singh Sr, who passed away on Monday, describing the three-time Olympic gold winner as an outstanding player who dedicated his life to the sport.
Singh died at a hospital in Mohali on Monday morning after battling multiple health issues for over two weeks. He was 96.
In a condolence letter addressed to Hockey India chief Md Mushtaque Ahmed, FIH president Narinder Batra and CEO Thierry Weil said the global hockey fraternity was with Singh's family at this hour of grief.
"It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the passing away of hockey legend and three-time Olympic Games gold winners Padma Shri Balbir Singh. Our thoughts are very much with his family at the very difficult time," the FIH letter read.
"Padma Shri Balbir Singh will be remembered not only as a highly talented and outstanding international player who represented India in three Olympic Games from 1948 to 1956, but also as a man greatly dedicated to our sport, sharing his experience and knowledge through his coaching with the Indian team."
One of the country's most accomplished athletes, Singh was the only Indian among 16 legends chosen by the International Olympic Committee across modern Olympic history.
His world record for most goals scored by an individual in the men's hockey final of the Olympics still remains unbeaten.
He had scored five goals in India's 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Games. He was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1957.
That was the first time an athlete was conferred the prestigious civilian honour.
Singh's three Olympic gold medals came in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) as vice-captain, and Melbourne (1956) as captain.
He was also the coach of the 1971 World Cup bronze-wining side in 1971 besides being the manager of India's only World Cup-winning team in 1975.