Olympian and 1978 Asian Games gold medallist Suresh Babu,who had inspired a lot of youngsters to take up athletics in 1970s and 80s,today died at a city hospital here after vomiting blood as a pall of gloom descended on the 34th National Games.
He was 58 and is survived by his wife,one son and one daughter.
Here as Kerala contingent chef-de-mission,the former long jumper and chief national athletics coach,was declared dead at around 11:30 am due to liver cirrhosis after he was rushed to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences this morning.
The news of Suresh Babu’s death gave a big jolt to the spirited Kerala contingent who,riding on their track and field performance,are on eighth spot on the medals standings with 13 gold,11 silver and 11 bronze.
Confirming the news,K S Babu,an official of the Kerala Olympic Association told PTI,”He died at around 11.30am. His family members have been informed.”
A charter flight is taking his mortal remains to his home in Kerala,organisers of the National Games said.
Put up at the Khel Gaon (Athletics Village) near the Mega Sports Complex in the outskirts of the city,Suresh Babu fell ill in the morning as he vomited blood and was rushed to RIMS,K S Babu said.
“He was put on ventilator and doctors tried their best but in vain…,” he said.
“He has a history of illness. He was a suffering from kidney complications and three months back he recovered from a bout of jaundice. His blood pressure was low. But his personal doctor back home in Thiruvananthapuram had permitted him to accompany the team,” he said.
Holder of national titles in jump events and decathlon,Suresh Babu dominated the track and field between 1972 and 1979 as he was awarded with Arjuna.
At the tender age of 19,Suresh Babu first represented India at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
But his claim to fame came after two years in the Tehran Asian Games when he won his first medal — a bronze — in the decathlon. In the following year,he clinched the title in the Asian Championships in Seoul.
In between,he captained Indian Universities athletics team to the World Universities Games at Moscow in 1973.
Leading the Indian athletics contingent in the 1978 Commonwealth Games at Edmonton in Canada,Suresh Babu concentrated on long jump and earned the country a bronze.
But his biggest moment of glory came in the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok where he went on to grab the long jump gold.
His winning effort of 7.85 metres was far short of T C Yohannan’s 8.07m in the previous edition but nevertheless he had maintained an Indian tradition with the yellow metal in long jump.
At the 1979 Asian Athletics in Tokyo,Suresh Babu picked up a silver.
During his seven years as an active athlete,he won medals for India at competitions in Ceylon,Lahore and the Philippines and was the captain of the Indian team for the World Athletics Meet in Montreal in 1979.
Born in Kollam in Kerala,Suresh Babu was a science graduate who came good in athletics.
The foundation for his athletics career was laid in the Infant Jesus High School and the Fatima Mata College in Kollam.
His first fling at the national level was as a junior at Jallandhar in 1969.
Three years later he won the national championship in high jump,a title he was to claim for six more years.
Switching from one pit to another,he won the national championship in long jump during the years 1974,1977 and 1979 and the triple jump in 1974,1976 and 1978.
In between,he strayed over to decathlon and imposed himself on the national scene in the championships held in 1974,1975 and 1978.
Suresh Babu then served as chief national senior coach in athletics as he served the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for 25 years.
But he took voluntary retirement in August 2009 to be with his family.
“I have been away from my family for far too long and I think it is high time I settled down in life,” he had said.
He accompanied the Kerala team as the chef de mission in his effort towards the preparation of the next edition of the National Games that Kerala is hosting.