KOCHI:Tony Daniel, the technical committee chairman of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), who passed away in Kochi on Wednesday was a visionary and played a major role in Kerala becoming the epicentre of Indian athletics, reminisced former athletes and colleagues.
Daniel, a former secretary of the Kerala State Athletics Association (KSAA) and serving as its executive president,was a constant presence in the athletics circuit across the country -- he had only returned on Monday after attending the 16th Federation Cup Junior Athletics Championship in Coimbatore.
"It came as a shocker as I had only spoken to him at length a couple of days back in Coimbatore," said legendary track athlete PT Usha. "He was a constant presence in championships across the country -- be it junior or senior -- was the go-to man at the time of crisis -- like when there was a hiccup in Kerala's participation in 4x100 metre relay a few days back," she said.
"We always talked about ways to improve athletics in the state and the fact that he was active in the sport until his last tells a lot about his commitment. You won't come across someone who has been this active in athletics for so many years," said Usha.
"His death is a huge loss to Indian athletics as he was one of the best administrators around," said Mercy Kuttan, Olympian and Kerala State Sports Council (KSSC) vice-president. The former Asian bronze medalist felt one of his greatest contributions was the synthetic athletics track that he helped install at the Maharaja's College Stadium in Kochi.
"The only synthetic track in Kerala back then was in Thiruvananthapuram. So, we were trying to bring one to Kochi since 2004. It was Tony who did all the negotiations with the KSSC and was instrumental in signing the MoU with them," reminisced PT Sellen, former head of the physical education department at the Maharaja's College.
"We faced plenty of challenges from the start to finish and we were together to tackle them all," said Sellen. "Tony wanted to refurbish the track and he was engaged in efforts to relay the track since 2016. But unfortunately, he won't be around to see that. His death is a loss for Kerala and there won't be another one like him," he added.
PI Babu, the current secretary of the state athletics body, said Daniel was way ahead of his time. "Under his leadership, KSAA was the first athletics body in the state to have their own website and let the athletes do their registrations online. Even the AFI had to follow Kerala's footsteps," said Babu.
"This is just one of the initiatives out of many that he oversaw the implementation of. We have lost a visionary and a pioneer in sports administration in the state," said Babu of Daniel, who also officiated in several international events as an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) technical officer and lecturer.