Tuesday 20 April 2021

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Sports | Games

Pratima's 'blackmailer' coach trnasferred


R Murlidharan, the athletic coach who is suspected to be the cause behind India's silver medallist Pratima Gaonkar's suicide, is transferred to the regional office of the Sports Authority of India at Gandhinagar for further inquiry.

Goa's SAI co-ordinator Roshan Lal Narhar confirmed that the coach has been transferred after conducting a preliminary inquiry into the allegations against Murlidharan.

Jayashree Gaonkar, the 42-year old widow mother of Pratima, has alleged that Murlidharan was blackmailing her daughter and extracting money from her, taking advantage of the sexual deformity the 18-year old athlete was carrying.

Pratima, considered to be the future P T Usha of India, had suddenly committed suicide on 9 October behind her house in the remote village of Dabhal in Eastern Goa, two days after returning from Kanpur.

Beginning her career by breaking all the past records in running in December last year, Pratima had bagged a silver medal at the ninth Asian Junior Athletic Championship, held at Brunei from 19 to 22 July. Her ascending graph had obviously raised everybody's hopes, especially in terms of the Olympics 2004.

Following her felicitation in Goa by honouring Pratima with Rs 11,000, Jayashree states that Mulridharan had taken Rs 5000 out of it. The preliminary inquiry report has established with circumstantial evidence that the amount was withdrawn from Pratima's bank account on 21 August.

It is learnt that Pratima had come to the bank in Mapusa, in spite of it being the holiday, accompanied by her village friend studying with her in the hostel and Murlidharan and had withdrawn Rs 5000. Murlidharan had then left for Kerala the next day.

While she was all prepared to go back to the SAI hostel in Mapusa on 9 October, Jayashree has stated that Pratima was disturbed as Murlidharan had demanded Rs 50,000 more when she had phoned him the previous night.

It is suspected that Pratima decided to end her short-lived career to avoid such blackmailing as she came from a very poor background. Jayashree, a widow, had brought up her three children by doing all kind of odd jobs in the village.

According to Roshan Lal, coach Murlidharan will be interrogated further by the SAI legal cell, based on which a chargesheet may be filed against him while also suspending him, if he is found guilty.

Meanwhile, Nilima Deshpande, a lady coach from Pune has been deputed at the SAI hostel in Mapusa, where around 12 more girls are being trained in athletics.

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