A day before receiving award, Rai passes away

A day before receiving Dronacharya award, Purushotham Rai passes away

The 79-year-old former athletics coach from Karnataka passed away following a massive heart attack on Friday evening. Rai was the third athletics coach from Karnataka after the late N Lingappa and VR Beedu to win the award.

Purushotham Rai had waited for years for this moment. The last few days had been the most satisfying of his coaching career after winning the long-awaited Dronacharya Award in the Lifetime category last week. And he was just hours away from receiving the award on Saturday in a virtual ceremony at the Vikasa Soudha, but fate willed otherwise.

The 79-year-old former athletics coach from Karnataka passed away following a massive heart attack on Friday evening. Rai was the third athletics coach from Karnataka after the late N Lingappa and VR Beedu to win the award.

“He complained of chest pain in the evening. We took him to a hospital, where he passed away,” said Rai’s wife Annie, who was inconsolable. Besides his wife, Rai left behind his son Prithvi.

“He was eager to receive the award. Everything happened so suddenly,” Rai’s wife added.  

Talking to DH on Monday, Rai had said though the award had come late he was happy to be recognised at last. “It took a long time to come but I am happy. The award gives great satisfaction because I got it without any association’s recommendation. I was solely judged on my contributions to the sport,” he had said.

Rai, who retired from Sports Authority of India in 2001, had applied using the self-nomination option introduced by the ministry in view of the “difficulties faced by the athletes and coaches to find eligible authorities to recommend amid the Covid-19 pandemic.” Former athlete Rosa Kutty and Beedu had individually recommended Rai for the award. 

The veteran coach, who passed out from the NIS Patiala in 1974, was supposed to attend the virtual award ceremony to receive the award, conferred by president Ram Nath Kovind.

Rai, a decathlete, had dedicated more than three decades to coaching and moulded the likes of Ashwini Nachappa, MK Asha, Pramila Aiyappa, Rosa, Muralikuttan, Jaicy Thomas, SD Eashan and SD Eashan into international athletes.

The Karnataka Athletics Association condoled the death of Rai.