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Talking about sport

AVINASH NAIR
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EVENT Former athletes talk about their time in the sport and the Tata legacy at the launch of the TCS World 10K run

remember the timeKenneth Powell, D.Y. Biradar, Satish Pillai and Uday K. Prabhu talked about sport in IndiaPhoto: Murali Kumar K.
remember the timeKenneth Powell, D.Y. Biradar, Satish Pillai and Uday K. Prabhu talked about sport in IndiaPhoto: Murali Kumar K.

Four veteran athletes – Kenneth Powell, D.Y. Biradar, Satish Pillai and Uday K. Prabhu – were present at the launch of the TCS World 10K run. At the event, they shared their views on athletics and posed for pictures.

A sense of pride in donning India colours is the common factor that links these athletes from different sports. Three of them, barring Biradar, who represented Railways, were products of the Tata legacy.

Kenneth Powell was the first athlete from Karnataka to participate in the Olympics (Tokyo ’64). The 73-year-old was also the first from the State to be bestowed with the Arjuna award in 1965. A late starter, Kenneth took to active athletics as a 19-year old after joining ITI. An accidental introduction to Peter Deigo and Rangers Club in Fraser Town saw this talented youngster switch to sprints and finding success at the 200 metre sprint for a long time. “I missed out on two Asian Games (Jakarta in 1962 and Bangkok 1966) due to Government stipulations despite being the best in the business. Only 17 athletes were cleared while many more had cleared the qualifying marks,” he adds. But at the Tokyo Olympics, the mild-mannered Kenneth finished fourth and could not progress further.

Kenneth held the national record of 10.4 seconds and 21.0 seconds for many years at the National and State championships and was the Indian team captain and flag-bearer at the Kingston (Jamaica Commonwealth Games in 1966).

However, a hamstring strain forced him to pull out from the individual events. Before the Asian and Commonwealth Games in ’66, Kenneth joined TISCO and retired in the mid 90’s.

Satish Pillai made long jump his forte and bagged a bronze at the Tehran Asian Games in 1974. The 52-year-old Pillai is among the rare breed of athletes who made it big in his career outside athletics once he made the painful decision to quit the sport. “A 7.81m at the Patiala trials put me on the trip to Tehran but then I could manage only a 7.58m. It was close enough to give me a podium finish,” says Satish. “A muscle strain held me back for a few seasons and I called it quits to focus on my career in TISCO,” he adds.

Satish managed to reach the position of GM Sports and served as the director of the Tata Football Academy (TFA) which has created and trained many footballers. “I was at the helm of affairs when TFA won the Second Division I League at Bangalore but the management was not keen on playing the Elite league and opted to stay in the second division. The AIFF bosses relegated us,” Satish quips.

For 73-year-old Dattaraya Yeshwantraya Biradar, running was a way of life. With no formal training or a coach, this village lad from Bijapur District, had only running to depend upon. “Initially, I used to run in the State Police colours and earned my three stripes. They decided to withdraw me. Fortunately, I was roped in by Railways. I ran for the Railways till my retirement in 1998,” says Biradar .

“I was the Railways marathon champion five years in a row and bagged a seventh place finish at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1969. My career had ended when I was diagonised with TB,” Biradar says. “I was not honoured by the State government but my achievements received acclaim from the doctors who were treating me. Dr. Devi Shetty, who operated me, discovered that I was a former international athlete and performed an open heart surgery free of cost. Another doctor, Bhujang Shetty also returned the deposit collected for my eye surgery.”

Uday K Prabhu is the lone athlete from the State to be honoured with the Dhyan Chand award at the national level. The 60-year-old has also bagged the Karnataka Rajyotsava award in 1981, a State award in 1979 and the Best Gentleman Sports Personality award by Tata Sports Club, Bombay. He held the National record in the 400m (46.6s) from 1977 to 1998 and the Inter-State 400m record of 47.2s from 1978 to 2000, besides holding the 4x400m ATF and National record for years.

Uday was also the National sprints coach from 1989 to 91’ and trained the Beijing Olympics and the SAF Games (Islamabad) sprinters. He was working as an Assistant Manager with Telco, before opting for an early retirement. “Our federations are largely to be blamed for the current state of affairs. The Government should also take some flak. They want instant results and drafted in coaches from the Soviet bloc, which had a disastrous effect.” feels Uday.

AVINASH NAIR

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