Hours away from Dronacharya award athletics coach Purushotham Rai dies

The Karnataka coach suffered a massive heart attack on Friday night. He was due to receive the coveted national award on Saturday.

By Naveen Peter ·

One of Karnataka’s well-known track and field coaches Purushotham Rai died on Friday evening following a cardiac arrest in Bengaluru.

The 79-year-old Rai, who retired as a Sports Authority of India (SAI) coach in 2001, was due to receive the Dronacharya Award (lifetime) on Saturday morning at a first-ever National Sports Award virtual ceremony.

Rai helped shape the careers of a number of Karnataka track stars including Ashwini Nachappa, Pramila Aiyappa, Rosa Kutty, MK Asha, Jaicy Thomas, SD Eashan, EB Shyla and Muralikuttan.

“The award gives great satisfaction because I got it without any association’s recommendation. I was judged solely on my contribution. I am happy the ministry introduced such a rule,” the coach had told Deccan Herald a few days back after being included among award winners for 2020.

Purushotham Rai, who will be the third athletics coach from Karnataka to win the Dronacharya Award after VR Beedu and N Lingappa, graduated from NIS Patiala in 1974 and was an integral member of the Indian support staff at various international meets, including the 1987 Asian Track and Field Championships and 1999 SAF Games.

Rai, well known for his patience and desire to see his wards run the distance, also coached the Services team before taking over the job at the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (DYES) in Karnataka before retiring with the SAI in 2001.

He then followed his love for track and field at the Sree Kanteerava stadium, training young athletes till 2015. 

“He was my first coach. As a young girl starting off, he made the journey so much special. It’s because of the kind of belief he had in my talent that I went on to taste so much success,” said sprinter Ashwini Nachappa.

“I won my first national medal under him in the U-13 category. The journey continued after that and there was no looking back."

Meanwhile, for former heptathlete Pramila, Purushotham Rai was a prime example of hard work and dedication.

“I never saw him angry. It’s his immense patience that has made him such an eminent coach,” she said.

The 2020 National Sports Awards will be conferred at a special virtual event on Saturday with the awardees joining in from various SAI centres across the country.