A day before he was to be conferred with the prestigious Dronacharya Award, veteran athletics coach Purshottam Rai passed away due to cardiac arrest. He was 79.Also Read - Neeraj Chopra, Tokyo Olympics 2020 Gold Medallist, Admitted to Hospital With High Fever, Leaves Welcome Function Midway in Panipat

Rai also took part in the rehearsal for the National Sports Awards which are to be held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.  “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. Also Read - 'Mathematically Proved', Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra is The Best

After receiving a diploma from Netaji Institute of Sports in 1974, Rai began his professional coaching career. Also Read - Athletics Federation of India to Celebrate August 7, Neeraj Chopra's Olympic Gold Winning Day, as National Javelin Day

He coached several high-profile athletes including the likes of Olympian quartermiler Vandana Rao, heptathlete Pramila Aiyappa, Ashwini Nachappa, Murali Kuttan, M K Asha, E B Shyla, Rosa Kutty and G G Pramila.

Athletics Federation of India president condoled his demise, calling it a tragic incident.

“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,” Sumariwalla said.

Former India international Anju Bobby George paid her tributes to Rai. “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,” Anju, a former long-jumper said.

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.