Unaware of his father's untimely demise, 16-year-old Sujit Kuttan became the fastest athlete by clocking the best time at a state school athletic meet here. Former Asian Games silver medallist Murali Kuttan, Sujit’s father and coach, was unable to witness the feat.
After suffering a major heart attack, he died on Sunday morning at a private hospital here.
The news was withheld from Sujit so as not to affect his performance adversely.
On his deathbed, the 56-year-old had told his wife and friends that he wished Sujit to go ahead with the race.
Wife Mercy Kuttan, also a former Asian Games medallist, appealed to the media not to flash the news and disturb the youngster.
Surprisingly, the vibrant state media (both electronic and print) complied, blacking out the news for almost 12 hours.
An unaware Sujit participated in the 100m final at 3pm, setting a meet record with 10.90 seconds. Many spectators, including journalists, wiped their tears when Sujit, on the podium, said his parents would be the happiest after the achievement. But his happiness soon turned to grief when he was rushed to the hospital.
"I salute the sporting spirit of all, especially Mercy. Despite the big loss, she kept her nerve for the sake of sport. Even the media played its role. It is the biggest tribute to the great sportsman," a visibly upset PT Usha, the country's sprint queen, said.
Murali had been the 400m national champion and won silver in the 400m relay at 1978 Bangkok Asian Games. He later married Mercy, a 1982 Asian Games silver medallist. They were the first couple to win the national championships and Asian medals. Later, Murali took to coaching and influenced Mercy to shift from long jump to 400 m and she won the Arjuna award in 1989. After retiring from Tata Steel in Jamshedpur, the couple was running an athletic academy in Kochi.