Former Indian hockey player and member of the 1980 Moscow Olympic winning team Ravenirpal Singh died in a hospital in Lucknow early Saturday morning. He was 61 years old.
Singh tested positive for COVID on April 24 and has since been hospitalized. He had been transferred to the non-coronavirus intensive care unit on Thursday after a negative test but his condition suddenly deteriorated and he had to be put on a ventilator on Friday.
Born in Sitapur, Singh was a two-time Olympian – he was also part of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics – at just 20 when he became the Olympic gold medalist in Moscow, the last Olympic medal for Indian hockey.
Singh was a producer of the Lucknow gym and a contemporary of Muhammad Shahid, he was known for his speed and interception.
“He was excellent in distributing and anticipating the ball, the two basic characteristics of a good central defender. He was someone you could count on to get your back at all times. He was calm and composed on the field with a stooped stance to control the ball, and he was a complete player. Zafar Iqbal, his teammate recalls in the team and the biggest in the Olympics.”
Singh, who works for the State Bank of India, had retired early and was only survived by his niece Pragya Yadav, having remained unmarried. However, he completely withdrew from the sport or anyone associated with it once he quit hockey, a chronic spinal injury that precipitates his exit.
Zafar commented that he had not met or spoken to anyone despite their many efforts. “He was reserved as a player at the time as well, but he was also playful, often joked and was very naughty and universally liked by everyone on the team. He was a free man in the truest sense, not caring about the future or his place in the team or anything serious. But Later he became unable to communicate with him. Even those he played with or worked with in the same city could not contact him. He seemed to simply distance himself from everything.”
The last time he was seen in public was at a party organized a few months ago by RP Singh, another UP hockey player and current state sports director. It was a rare occasion for someone who, in his words a few years ago, “has hardly seen any hockey.”
In his later years, he was more interested in football, perhaps as a throwback to his father who was also a footballer.
On the field, it was his speed, interception and off-piste, and ability to avoid people that made Ravinder Pal Singh unique. Unfortunately, he couldn’t evade COVID.