In a major loss to the sports fraternity, Mehboob Shamsher Khan, first ever Olympian swimmer from India died of cardiac stroke at kaithepalle village near Repalle town in the district on Sunday. Khan was 87 and was survived by two sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. He was a national Olympian and first Indian swimmer to have finished in 5th slot in the 1965 Melbourne summer Olympics. Surprisingly, even after improvement in infrastructure and coaching facilities in the last six decades, no Indian swimmer has beat Khan’s record of reaching the 5th place.After serving Indian army for 24 years, Khan retired in the rank of Subedar. Ironically, Khan lived in utter poverty almost till his end as pension granted by the Indian army is the only source of income for his family. While his elder son Sajid Vali Khan is still serving Indian army, who resides at his native place with his younger son Ali Khan.
In 1964, Khan set a national record in the 200m butterfly, and broke all records at the national meet in Bangalore in 1955. He earned the slot in the Olympic squad with sheer performance which he repeated in Melbourne. Interestingly, Only air fare was sponsored by Indian government to Melbourne while Khan had to secure a loan of Rs 300 from Army to meet his food and other costs during the Olympics. “My salary was just Rs 56 in those days and Army deducted entire Rs.300 from my salary after my return from Olympics,” Khan recalled in one of his last interviews.Khan joined the Army in 1946 and took part in two crucial battles against China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1973. He was inducted into the Madras Engineer Group in Bangalore and completed nearly 24 years of service in the Army.
His daughter-in-law Rizwana Khan said that, “My father-in-law refused to take any financial assistance from locals saying that he is a fighter of Indian army and wanted to die like a fighter not a beggar.” She further added that his father-in-law was not happy with the reluctant behaviour of government towards his achievements. His fellow Olympian and wrestler from Krishna district, Kamineni Eswara Rao was conferred with Arjuna Award.Champion swimmer Khan suffered a heart attack few years ago but survived on medication till his last breath. chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu condoled his death.
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