Born in Punjab, the actor who had just turned 74, in December last year was also an athlete. He had participated in hammer throw and won several medals for India in the Asian and Commonwealth Games and even participated in the Olympics. (Image: Twitter/@Tushar_KN)
New Delhi: The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Tuesday expressed deep shock at the demise of former double Asian Games gold medallist Praveen Kumar Sobti and said he will remain an inspiration for the future generations for his 11 years of international success.
Sobti, who became a household name after playing the role of Bheem in the TV series 'Mahabharat', died after suffering a cardiac arrest at his residence here on Monday evening.
He was 74 and is survived by wife, daughter, two younger brothers and a sister.
AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said with the demise of Sobti, Indian athletics has lost a wonderful ambassador and "gentle giant".
"He will remain an inspiration for years to come as he is a great example of an athlete who gave his best on the international platform in the 11 years that he competed at the highest level," Sumariwalla said in his condolence message.
Hailing from a humble family in Sarhali Kalan village near Amritsar, Sobti dominated the discus and hammer throw events for many years during the 1960s and 70s, winning medals in three Asian Games, one Commonwealth Games and taking part in two Olympics -- the 1968 Mexico editions and the ill-fated 1972 Games in Munich -- where Israeli athletes were massacred by a Palestinian terrorist group.
He came up with his career-best efforts in the two Olympics -- 60.84m in hammer throw (1968) and 53.12m in discus throw (1972).
Sobti's discus throw gold medals in the Asiad came in the 1966 and 1970 editions. He won a hammer throw bronze in the 1966 Asian Games and a silver in the same discipline in the Commonwealth Games that year. He also won a discus throw silver in the 1974 Asian Games.
His hammer throw silver (in 1966) remains the only one that an Indian has won at the CWG. It was India's maiden medal in a field event in the Commonwealth Games and only the second in athletics after Milkha Singh's 440 yard gold in the 1958 edition.
"It is this quality of raising his game at the biggest of stages that made Praveen Kumar the top-notch performer," Sumariwalla said.
"To have achieved all this at a time when training for major competition entailed only short stints in a National camp speaks volumes about his natural talent and the passionate fire that drove him to achieve excellence."
Earlier, the AFI said in a tweet: "AFI family is in deep shock on the passing away of Olympian & Asian Games medalist Shri Praveen Kumar Sobti ji, 74."
After becoming popular as an actor following his role in Mahabharat in 1988, Sobti featured in supporting parts in close to 50 movies like 'Yudh', 'Adhikar', 'Hukumat', 'Shahenshah', 'Ghayal' and 'Aaj Ka Arjun'.