Olympic gold-winning hockey legend Keshav Datt dies

NEW DELHI, Jul 7: Two-time Olympic gold medal-winning hockey legend Keshav Datt died on Wednesday due to age-related ailments, marking the end of a glorious era in the sport.

             Datt was 95 and is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter, all of whom are settled abroad.

             The former centre halfback died around 12.30 am at his residence in Santoshpur, Kolkata where he was living alone.

             “It’s a very sad time for our family. Normally I visit him three-four times a year but because of the pandemic, I’ve not been able to see him since 2019,” his daughter Anjali Keshav Poulsen told PTI from Copenhagen.

             “I’ve booked my tickets and will be there from July 11-13 to perform the last rites,” she added.

             Born on December 29, 1925 in Lahore, Datt was a part of India’s golden era in hockey after making Kolkata his home following the partition.

             A formidable half-back, he was part of India’s historic feat at the 1948 Olympics where the country beat home team Britain 4-0 at the Wembley Stadium in London to win the first gold post Independence.

             Before the 1948 Olympics, Datt toured East Africa under the leadership of  the iconic Major Dhyan Chand in 1947.

             Datt was also a part of the Indian team at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where they beat Netherlands 6-1 in the summit clash to become the Olympic champions for the fifth consecutive time.

             “We are all very saddened to hear about the legendary halfback Keshav Datt’s demise early this morning.

             “He was the lone surviving member of the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games and today truly feels like the end of an era,” said Hockey India President Gyanendro Ningombam in a statement.

             “We all grew up listening to incredible stories of their memorable outings for independent India at the Olympics and they went on to inspire generations of hockey players in the country.”

             West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also offered her condolences.

             “The world of hockey lost one of its true legends today. Saddened at the passing away of Keshav Datt. He was a double Olympic gold medal winner, 1948 and 1952. A champion of India and Bengal. Condolences to his family and friends,” Banerjee tweeted.

             An integral part of the Indian team, Datt also captained the Mohun Bagan hockey squad from 1951-1953 and again between 1957 and 1958.

             As a Mohun Bagan player he won the hockey league six times and Beighton Cup three times in a span of 10 years.

             He was conferred with the Mohun Bagan Ratna award in 2019, becoming the first non-footballer recipient of the honour.

             “SAI mourns the passing away of Keshav Datt, a member of India’s 1948 and 1952 @Olympics gold medalist men’s hockey teams,” the Sports Authority of India tweeted.

             “His contribution to the great legacy of Indian hockey will be remembered forever. Condolences to his family and the hockey fraternity.”

             Tennis star Leander Paes, whose father Dr Vece Paes is a former hockey Olympian, also condoled the demise of Datt, whom he knew personally.

             “Deeply saddened by the passing of Uncle Keshav. A very dear family friend and a hero I looked up to growing up. He always encouraged me. My deepest condolences to his family!” he posted on Twitter.

             Sports minister Kiren Rijiju lauded Datt’s contribution to the sport.

             “I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family. His contribution towards the golden period of Indian hockey will be remembered forever,” he said. (PTI)