Veteran athletics coach Purshottam Rai died due to a cardiac arrest on Friday, tragically a day before he was to be conferred with the prestigious Dronacharya Award. "He took part in the rehearsal for the National Sports Awards but later suffered heart attack and passed away," a top AFI official told PTI. He was 79.
The National Sports Awards ceremony will be held virtually on Saturday due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rai was to receive the Dronacharya Award from President Ram Nath Kovind in the lifetime category. Rai coached top athletes such as Olympian quartermiler Vandana Rao, heptathlete Pramila Aiyappa, Ashwini Nachappa, Murali Kuttan, M K Asha, E B Shyla, Rosa Kutty and G G Pramila.
"It is a tragic incident and we at AFI are shocked. He spent his whole life for athletics and he made immense contribution to Indian athletics. We condole his tragic demise and express our condolences to his family," said AFI president Adille Sumariwalla.
India lost veteran athletics coach Shri. Puroshottam Rai on Friday. Shri. Rai was to receive the Dronacharya (Lifetime) Award today at the virtual National Sports Awards ceremony. @KirenRijiju condoled his death and said, "His contribution will always be remembered."
— Kiren Rijiju Office (@RijijuOffice) August 29, 2020
Rai began his coaching career after securing a diploma from Netaji Institute of Sports in 1974. "He was a good coach under whom many top Indian athletes including many Olympians had trained. It is such a sad incident to pass away just a day before receiving the award," said former long-jumper Anju Booby George, one of India's athletics great. Rai also coached the Indian team for the 1987 World Athletics Championship, 1988 Asian Track and Field Championships and 1999 SAF Games. He was also involved in coaching roles at at Services, Department of Youth Empowerment & Sports (DYES), and Sports Authority of India (SAI).
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday condoled the death of veteran athletics coach Purushottam Rai and said, 'His contribution will always be remembered'," Rijiju tweeted.