Indian boxing's first Dronacharya awardee coach O P Bhardwaj passes away

Bhardwaj was bestowed the highest national honour in coaching jointly with Bhalchandra Bhaskar Bhagwat (wrestling) and O M Nambiar (athletics), when it was introduced in 1985.

Bhardwaj was India's national boxing coach from 1968 to 1989 and also served as a national selector. (Representative Image)   -  GETTY IMAGES

Legendary boxing coach Om Prakash Bharadwaj, the first from the discipline to be honoured with the Dronacharya award in 1985, died on Friday following prolonged illness and old-age issues. He was 82. Bhardwaj had lost his wife about 10 days ago.

Bharadwaj, who coached the national team for several years up to the early 1990s, played a crucial role in starting the boxing course at NIS Patiala in 1975.

Under his guidance, Indian boxers won medals in major sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Asian championships and South Asian Games.

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Former Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) secretary-general Brig. (retd.) P.K.M. Raja remembered Bharadwaj as a good coach and a friendly person.

“Bharadwaj began as a physical training instructor in the Army Physical Training Corps before becoming a boxing coach. Since Services boxers dominated the Indian boxing scene from 1970 to 1990, Bharadwaj also rose in stature as a coach and trained many medal winners before the USSR broke apart and some parts of it, including Kazakhstan, came within Asia. Bharadwaj also got the Best Coach in Asia award around the 1990s,” said Brig. Raja.

“As a chief instructor at NIS Patiala, he trained many well-known coaches,” added Brig. Raja.

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Ashok Gangopadhyay, who was the secretary-general of IABF during the 1980s and worked with Bharadwaj, said, “He had good control over his voice and was good at coaching. Mostly he would make the boxers do hard training and get the best out of them.”

V. Devarajan, who was part of the Indian team to the South Asian Games in Colombo in 1991 with Bharadwaj as the chief coach, said, “Bharadwaj Sir was a good motivator. He used to inspire us with his words.”

“Bharadwaj inspired a generation of boxers and coaches. His work as a selector was unparalleled,” said Boxing Federation of India president Ajay Singh.

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