When Kodagu athlete Aiyanna pipped Flying Sikh at the post

Madikeri: Flying Sikh Milkha Singh, who recently passed away, remains etched in the memory of Indians, and athletes in particular, for his athletic fetes. But very few knows the unsung hero from Kodagu who defeated Milkha Singh.

Kunjiyanda Aiyanna from Ammathi in Virajpet taluk in Kodagu district had trounced the Flying Sikh in a 100-metre race in 1951. While Aiyanna had clocked 10.69 seconds, Milkha Singh ended with 10.75 seconds.

Born in 1929 Aiyanna represented Karnataka in the National-level 100-meter race. He was credited with pipping the flying Singh several times at National-level meets and held the record for 100 mts for some time. But Aiyanna never got recognition for his achievement .His feat came to light only after passing away of Milkha Singh a couple of days back.

He joined the Indian Army and served in the Artillery Division. As he was a sprinter, his commanding officers recognised his talent and began training him. Aiyanna proved to be a true sportsperson and honed his skills to reach his defining moment that came in the form of National-level 100 mts. He sprinted to glory and defeated people who later rose to be legends. But Aiyanna remained in obscurity. Speaking to reporters, Aiyanna's son Arun who runs an event management firm in Kodagu, said that his father used to speak a lot about his achievements. He used to tell us how he struggled hard in athletics at a time when sports was considered a least priority in India and at a time when there were not even basic facilities for sportspersons. He told us about how people from South India were called 'Madrasis' and were looked down upon by sportspersons from North, Arun said. "The discrimination was clear and my father had to remain in obscurity. No one recognised him and despite this, he gave a stellar performance on tracks," Arun added. The unsung hero passed away in 1995 at 65.

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