O.M. Nambiar, the coach who trained and guided legendary sprinter P.T. Usha to international glory, died on Thursday, aged 89.
Hailing from Vadakara in Kozhikode district in Kerala, Nambiar, who started his career with the Air Force, took over Usha when she was very young and helped her achieve some of her greatest performances including the fourth-place finish in 400m hurdles at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Usha was one of the first to pay tributes to Nambiar.
"The passing of my guru, my coach, my guiding light is going to leave a void that can never be filled. Words cannot express his contribution to my life. Anguished by the grief. Will miss you OM Nambiar sir. RIP," she tweeted along with a collage of her photographs with her coach.
Nambiar, an athlete who could not make it big at the national and international circuit, took to coaching early in his life and discovered a gem in Usha, who turned out to be the greatest athlete the country has ever produced.
It was Nambiar, who advised Usha to take up 400m hurdles a few months before the 1984 Olympics as he thought she had a good chance of winning an Olympic medal. His vision and dream nearly came true as Usha missed a bronze medal by a whisker.
Nambiar did his service with the Indian Air Force for 15 years and retired as a Sergeant in 1970.
He earned a coaching diploma from NIS-Patiala in 1968 and joined the Kerala Sports Council in 1971. He had a big role in identifying and nurturing several medal-winning athletes including Shiny Wilson and Vandana Rao.
He was awarded the Padma Shri earlier this year.
The Athletics Federation of India too paid rich tributes to Nambiar.
"Rest in peace sir [icon: folded hands] [flag of India] thank you for your immense contribution to #IndianAthletics & making of a legend PT Usha ji. [icon: folded hands, folded hands]," AFI tweeted.