The most important occasion in Milkha’s career arrived in the form of Rome Olympic Games 1960. In the first heat of 400m race at the Rome Olympic Games, he covered the race at 47.6 seconds and finished at 2nd position. In the second heat he further improved his timing and grabbed 2nd position again with a timing of 46.5 seconds. Karl Kaufman of Germany had outclassed him this time. In the Semi Final heat he still finished at 2nd place, although this time he further improved the timing with 45.9, beaten by only Ottis Davis of USA.
In the final round of the coveted race, Milkha went off like an arrow and left all other competitors behind till the distance of 250m. It was when he miscalculated his own speed and committed the blunder of his lifetime and perhaps the history of Indian Athletics, by slowing down a bit. Although he tried the hardest of his lifetime to recover the distance, the other opponents had lagged him behind enough for him to catch them again.
The competition was so tough that Ottis Davis and Karl Kaufman clocked 44.9 seconds, while Malcolm Spence of South Africa covered the race in 45.5 seconds. Milkha, who was initially leading the race, finished just 0.1 seconds later by Spence, clocking 45.6 seconds. The difference was so minute that the announcement was initially held up and further declared after a photo-finish. Thus Milkha, who was a favorite for the Gold, lost a Bronze by a whisker, the closest an Indian athlete could get to an Olympic Medal in Athletics till now. (This was later bettered by P.T. Usha, who lost the 1984 Olympics 400 m hurdles bronze by 1/100th of a second)