Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday condoled the death of veteran athletics coach Purushottam Rai, who was to receive this year's Dronacharya award in the lifetime category. Rai, who was to be bestowed the honour on Saturday and had even participated in the dress rehearsal for the first-of-its-kind virtual ceremony, died on Friday evening after suffering a heart attack in Bengaluru. He was 79. "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'," Rijiju tweeted.
The National Sports Awards ceremony will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rai was to receive the Dronacharya award from President Ram Nath Kovind in the lifetime category. Rai began his coaching career after securing a diploma from Netaji Institute of Sports in 1974. He 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.
Rai also coached the Indian team for the 1987 World Athletics Championship, the 1988 Asian Track and Field Championships and the 1999 South Asian Games.