When you look through pages of history there will be many men and women in Sports that have carved an immaculate journey. Some of them have achieved feats one could only dream of. And then some that have inspired another generation to follow. And there are some who have did both and achieved legendary status.
There is a myriad list of sportsmen and women who have done the extraordinary and the whole world were left in awe of their audacity. But then there are a rare breed of humans, that believe in creating something for others. Something that’d help other achieve greatness. They’d be happy in helping countless others to do something great. PandurangMhaskar was one of those rare breed of people.
Born in Beldarwadi‘ a small village settled on a hillock in the district of Sangli, his parents were poor. Beldarwadi then had a population of less than 200. Even today the population of Beldarwadi is not more than 1500.
No schools were built at Beldarvadi during that time and like most Indian parents post freedom, he used to travel on foot for 18 kilometers to go to school at Islampur. During his schooling days he was much interested in athletics, and his then teachers in school encouraged him to participate in local tournaments. He did win a lot of local tournaments.
Pandurang used to practice on free grounds and roads bare feet or seldom with slippers. Mr. Patil, a principal in the college where Pandurang used to study not only encouraged him to follow athletics but also instilled in him the importance of laying the foundation for a sportsmen career, on how one’s body needs to get used to lifecycle of an athlete. The gravity of getting the basics, right from an early age.
His parents were farmers by choice. He didn’t want to trouble his parents for money so he started working in a restaurant during his school days. Serving, cooking and accounting were all the chores that he had to perform whilst working at this small restaurant. He used to fulfill his duties of paying income tax on behalf of the restaurant and helped others as well to learn this new system.
To advance his training further, his principal recommended him to pursue his education by joining NIS ‘ National Institute of Sports, to attain a degree in Coaching. As a disciplined boy he was, he saved up on a lot of money during his college to make sure he had enough to pursue and sustain his life while staying at Patiala. Precisely, keeping this in mind, he had saved up to Rs. 750 after paying the fees for admission, which was huge amount during the 1960’s. He graduated after a year, with still money left from his savings.
Soon after graduating he returned back to his native and was offered a job as an Athletics coach in the newly established Shivaji University. The Vice Chancellor then, Dr. A.G Pawar also made sure there was a Department of Sports created with Pandurang playing a pivotal role. To date there are only few colleges/universities in Maharashtra that have their own Department of Sports.
Shivaji University was the one of the first universities to hire a NIS graduate as a coach. They were also the pioneers in establishing the first Department of Sports in any University in Maharashtra. With this opportunity in place, Pandurang made sure that he wasn’t to let go of this. He started off with his vision of placing a state of the art Track & Field for the University students as well as from other districts (Solapur, Sangli&Satara).
As a coach, Pandurang had an overwhelming personality. Strict to the core with punctuality, discipline and precision as his integral values. Pandurang, as taught by his professor earlier, getting the basics and laying the foundation at the right age for an athlete is of utmost importance.
He always believed that if you teach a boy at the age of 20 the ABC’s of exercising and stretching, he will learn it but since the body is not used to this rigor, there will be limitation on the outcome. He will end up being a good athlete but will never cross the barrier to becoming a world class one. For that you need to start at an early age.