R N Utchil, Our Great Athletic Legend
He was the Legend, R.N.Utchil, who shone like a star, in the Indian Athletic field, during the earlier decades of the last century. The present year is the birth centenary year of this great athlete from Mumbai, who held his ranks for fourteen long years and created wonderful records in the athletic field.
Born in Mangalore, on the 6th of October, 1916, R.N.Utchil took to athletics with the ease of fish swimming in the waters. Though he part took in sports, successfully during his school and college days, he earned his fame, when he participated in an open event, in Bombay, in the year, 1938. Then on, Mr. Utchil’s name was always seen in the cover pages of newspapers, throughout his athletic career.
1940, turned out to mark his achievements, when he covered his favourite distance of 800 meters, in 2 minutes and 1 second, creating a Record and this Record remained unbeaten for the next 8 years. It was his own pupil, Benson Proud foot, who broke this Record after 8 long years. Mr. Utchil’s achievement and success, reached its peak, in the year, 1945. It was a memorable year, marking his great feat when he covered the distance of 400 Meters in 50 .2 seconds. This Record stood unbeaten for many successive years.
From 1938 to 1951, Mr. R.N.Utchil was active in the Bombay Athletic team and was chosen Captian of the Team in 1942. He led the Team in the All India Games, held in Ludhiana, in the year 1951. He also represented India, in the Indo–Cylone Meet, held at Cylone and Bangalore
Mr. Utchil had read widely and had a great knowledge of Athletics and was rightly called the Walking Encyclopedia of Athletics. All his contemporary athletes had gained wide knowledge from him and were indebted to him for his valuable advice in the field. They had all learnt a lot from this great teacher. Budding athletes all gathered around him for his teachings and training by him. He happily took up the responsibility of being a Coach for the students of Grant Medical College and Siddhartha College. He wished that the boys and girls of Bombay may do something worthwhile for the nation. Just as he taught his students to march towards success, he also taught them to regard success and failure in the same light. He also had the responsibility of training the University team in athletics.
Mr. R.N.Utchil was always seen at Athletics Meets either as a competitor or as an active member. He rejoiced in teaching others whatever he knew concerning Athletics. He had a wide knowledge in this respect. Being well versed in the style and technique of the game he knew by heart all the Records established so far in the field.
Mr. Utchil led a happy contented life with his wife Sheela R.Utchil and little Raja, his three-year-old son at Zaveri Nivas, near Opera House. Whoever dreamt that this vibrant life would come to an end so soon? He was seen as a spectator at the Annual Athletics Meet of the Tata Sports Club at the Brabourne Stadium. Affected by a severe attack of Typhoid, the year before, he still maintained his enthusiasm in life. When the Bombay Presidency Olympic Association, failed to conduct the Olympic Meet, Mr. Utchil, along with his comrades, established the Olympic Athletes Union and held the Olympic Athletic Meet successfully.
On the morn of 9th March 1952, Mr. Utchil suffered an ache in his chest. But he did not give much importance to it and went on with his routine as usual. While at a game of Carrom, with his neighbours after lunch, he suddenly felt sick. Due to severe pain in the chest, he fell unconscious. The family doctor tried to revive him with injections, but in vain and Mr. Utchil breathed his last.
The sudden departure of this great athlete was reported as an irreversible loss to the field of athletics by all newspapers that day. A great soul who loved athletics with all his heart, who could speak on athletics authoritatively, who rendered his knowledge to one and all freely, had suddenly departed to the unknown world. When the sudden death was announced at the Tata Sports Meet at the Brabourne Stadium, it was received with utter shock and grief. Gloom and despair hung heavy on the hearts of his followers and a great number of athletes and fans attended the legend’s last journey. The body was draped with the National colours and accompanied by a large number of mourners, and people who came to pay their last respects left the residence at 9:00 pm.. He was a real great soul who dedicated his life to the sports he loved and to the honour of the nation. The Jai Hind Sports Club, has been conducting the R.N.Utchil Memorial Sports Meet, in his memory in Mumbai, every year, paying due homage to the great legend.
It is only apt that the present generation should know the legend born a century ago and created history in the field of athletics in Mumbai.
by Shyamala Madhav