Veteran athletics coach and Dronacharya awardee Lingappa dies

In an illustrious coaching career, N. Lingappa trained athletes including international sportspersons such as Ashwini Nachappa and Vandana Rao. He was 95.

Lingappa was a 10km walker in his prime and qualified for the event in the Manila Asian Games in 1954, but the event was cancelled.   -  N. Sudarshan

Veteran athletics coach and Dronacharya awardee N. Lingappa passed away due to an age-related illness on Tuesday in Bengaluru. He was 95.

Lingappa had trained several international athletes like D.Y. Biradar, P.C. Ponnappa, Uday Prabhu and Ashwini Nachappa during the course of his over 60-year career as a coach.

An athlete himself, Lingappa had qualified as a walker in the 1954 Manila Asian Games, but the event was cancelled.

Prabhu, silver medallist in the men's 400m at the 1978 Asian Games, said, “He was my first coach when I came to Bangalore from Ankola in 1974. I was from a village and I had no idea of how to train, or knowledge of any competitions. I was with him for a year. He always saw to it that I completed my training as per schedule. We used to train in Cubbon Park and Lalbagh. There was a hillock in Kolar; he would take us there for cross-country training."

"He was very committed, and never missed a day's training. His service to athletics was so long. It's hard to find another coach like that in India. He was unique. He was a disciplinarian; quite tough, until till the very end. As a technical official, he never compromised on the rules, no matter how big the athlete was," Prabhu said.

Karnataka's first Olympian, Kenneth Powell, stated, "I never trained under him, but I spent three weeks with him at a State training camp in 1962. I had a displaced cartilage in my knee. The cartilage would keep coming out every time I turned, and I had to unlock my knee and push it back into place. We were training at Cubbon Park, and one morning my knee refused to unlock after the cartilage had been displaced again. Lingappa took me to a Puttur Kattu (traditional bone-setting method) practitioner near Utility Building. He straightened my knee out and in five days' time, I was racing at the South India Quadrangular meet. I was able to take part in five events and I won three gold medals."

"I used to meet him quite often at various functions and athletics meets. He would turn up for training an hour before the athletes. He was a very dedicated coach," Powell, who competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, said.

V.R. Beedu, fellow athletics coach, said, “Lingappa's dedication to athletics was unmatched. He used to regularly come to train his wards at Sree Kanteerava Stadium even until a few months ago. He was a regular presence at the stadium for the last 60 years. We have lost our leader and role model.”

Former international athlete Ashwini Nachappa recalled, “Lingappa was a taskmaster – his training sessions were strenuous and rewarding. Most of all, his dedication to the sport stood out. Come rain or ill-health, he never missed a training session.”

After undergoing treatment at a hospital, Lingappa was brought home a few days ago. He breathed his last in the early hours of Tuesday. He is survived by two sons and three daughters.