Not many know about the story of Paramjeet Singh, a deputy commandant in the CRPF and renowned quarter mile runner, who broke Milkha Singh’s 38-year-old 400m record on Nov 4, 1998, at the “Indian National Open Athletics Meet”, held in the eastern city of Calcutta.
Paramjeet participated in the three Asian Games — Hiroshima, Bangkok, and Busan, winning a silver and bronze in the Busan edition. He reigned supreme as the premier 400m runner in India from 1992 till 1997. The sudden spurt of athletes during in 1998 motivated him to work harder. This was the time when he went past Milkha Singh’s long-standing 400m record.
The initial 400 meters national record set by the Flying Sikh at the Rome Olympics in the year 1960 was hand timed at 45.6, but the race was also timed by a completely automatic electric system, which recorded 45.73 seconds. In the year 1998, Paramjeet Singh at age 26, broke Milkha Singh’s national record by clocking at 45.70 seconds.
The retired Director of Sports, Punjab State Government, Milkha had offered to give two lakh rupees to any Indian who breaks his record. Despite having doubts about Paramjeet’s performance, Milkha gave him rupees 1 lakh and promised to pay him the other half only if he broke the record abroad.
Paramjeet later decided to shift his focus towards coaching. He served as a mentor for the CRPF athletes for around two years and was later awarded the role of a coach for training India’s 400m London Olympic Aspirants in 2012.
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