Noida: India's athletics icon Milkha Singh is glad that the doors have been opened for sportspersons to receive India's highest civilian award -- Bharat Ratna -- but would have been happier if hockey legend Dhyan Chand was the first recipient instead of Sachin Tendulkar.
"I am very happy that the doors have opened for sportspersons. But I think the first Bharat Ratna should have been given to Dhyan Chand because of what he has achieved. I am not against Sachin getting the award but Dhyan Chand deserved it first," said Milkha, who is India's only male athlete to win a Commonwealth Games track and field event way back in 1958 in Cardiff.
The government announced last week that batting great Tendulkar, who retired from all forms of cricket, will become the first sportsperson and the youngest to receive the award.
Milkha, on the sidelines of an event at Genesis Global School, said Saturday that Dhyan Chand's exploits should not be forgotten even 34 years after his death. The hockey wizard was part of the teams that won three Olympic golds in 1928, 1932 and 1936.
"A sportsperson is a nation's ambassador when they go to participate in the Olympics, so they should also be given these awards. Dhyan Chand passed away long back but we should not forget what he has done for the country. You must understand that to get an Olympic medal is a huge achievement," added Milkha, who missed the 400m bronze in the 1960 Rome Olympics in a photo finish.
Asked about India's chances in track and field events in the Asiad and the Commonwealth Games next year, the 'Flying Sikh' doesn't expect more than two medals. But he remains more concerned about the Olympics.
"In track and field, no doubt, we will win a couple of medals next year but I am more concerned about Olympics. I don't see any athlete coming up in the next four years who can clinch a medal at the Olympics. The present coaches have not been able to produce results. With the system we have today, I don't see us winning a medal at the Games," said Milkha.