'It's been a very long time in coming'

'It's been a very long time in coming'

One of life’s vital lessons is in taking the rough with the smooth. Having endured the rough for long, it didn’t come as a surprise at all when N Lingappa received the news of him being recommended for the Dronacharya award with supreme calmness.

“It has been a very long time in coming and I am very happy,” said the veteran athletics coach when Deccan Herald broke the news to him on Monday evening. It was hard to find even a tinge of excitement in his voice.

Understandably so – Lingappa is 90 and over the years, the second week of August has only brought him news of rejection and disappointment. “Eighteen years,” said the senior-most athletics guru in Karnataka of the time he has spent fighting what he perceived to be an injustice.

Many less deserving candidates have walked up and received the prize from the President ahead of the man who was once a top walker on the national scene. The coach whose touch has shaped the early careers of many a noted athlete in the country has never stopped to voice his angst against the system.

“Even without the award, he is a true Dronacharya,” said senior coach V R Beedu, who has seen Lingappa at close quarters at their second home, the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, over the years. “Close to sixty years, he has been there, training and guiding athletes. Even now, he is there every day without fail. Hard work and discipline have been his watchwords.”

Those qualities shaped the careers of many a top notch talent, including D Y Biradar, A P Ramaswamy, P C Ponnappa and David Premnath. For brief periods, Uday K Prabhu and Ashwini Nachappa too benefitted from the ways of the master.

“His commitment is unmatched and his services to the sport, as a coach and as an official, are really praiseworthy,” said Uday, former Asian Games silver medallist and Dhyanchand award-winner.

Ashwini echoed the sentiments. “I am very happy for him. It is hard to find that kind of dedication and commitment. As a coach, he was extremely strict and he would not make any compromises. His contribution has been immense,” she said.

Lingappa dabbled in cricket, football and basketball before finding his true calling in athletics. 

A javelin thrower initially, a shoulder injury forced him to give up the lance and focus his energies as a walker. He was selected to the Indian team for the second Asian Games in Manila (1954) but the walk events were cancelled, dashing his aspirations of donning the national colours.

A journey in the coaching field that started the next year has continued till date, with Lingappa also making a mark as an official. Besides his work at the Kanteerava, Lingappa trains young ones at the Carmel School in Padmanabhanagar. No doubt, the runners and jumpers of the future are imbibing his mantra of hard work.

“Unless you punch, punch, punch, you cannot come up. You should have the guts and ability to take punishment,” Lingappa had told this paper many years ago. Even in his case, those words seem to have come true.

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