Death
In life and in death, Shamsher Khan was neglected by the government, who failed to recognise his contribution.
File photo

India’s Olympic swimmer Shamsher Khan passed away from heart failure on Sunday. The 87-year-old is survived by three daughters and two sons.

He lived in a small village, Kaithepalle near Repalle in Guntur district.

Speaking to TNM, Khan’s daughter-in-law M Roushn said that Khan was ailing from a heart condition. “He complained of chest pain in the morning, before we could reach the hospital, he passed away,” she mourned.

Khan was the first swimmer to represent India in the 1956 Olympics. He earned a ticket to the Melbourne Summer Olympics in 1956 after creating a national record in the 200-meter butterfly event.

In an interview to TNM last year, Khan said, “The Indian government sponsored my flight tickets to Melbourne. But for the rest of the expenses, I took a loan of Rs 300 for which the army deducted my salary for three months.”

Khan participated in the 200 metre butterfly and breaststroke categories and finished fourth in the 1956 Olympics. “I aimed for the gold. I was very confident that I would win. But when I lost I felt terrible,” Khan had told TNM.

He served in the Army from 1946 and also fought the Indo-China war in 1962 and the subsequent 1971 Indo-Pak war. His records in breast-stroke and butterfly still remain unbeaten by Indian athletes.

He served in the army for 24 years and retired from services in the year 1973. Khan was inducted into the Madras Engineer Group in Bangalore.  Khan admitted in his interview last year that he was never interested in the Indian Army when he joined. "One day my cousin was going for the army selection, so I just went for the tests along with him and got luckily got selected," said Khan. It was when he was in the army that he formally trained in swimming.

Khan was suffering from heart problem for the past few years, and was under medication, recalled Roushn.          

Khan remained a neglected sports figure until his death. He remained poor in his last days and had to rely on crowd source funding to meet his medical expenses. Khan had said, "I don't have much expectation from the government as they don’t fulfil our demands. After doing so much for the country, no one has ever recognised me. I don't even have a ration card till now.”  

Read: Forgotten Glory: No one has recognised me, says Shamsher Khan, India’s first Olympic swimmer

Expressing grief over his death, YSR Congress Chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy condoled Khan’s death.