Bengaluru, Nov 2: He became highly excited to have watched his student scoring the winning goal with just nine minutes left and guid India to clinch second Asian Champions Trophy hockey in a thrilling 3-2 victory against arch rivals Pakistan.
CU Ashwath, hockey coach of Sports Authority of India in Bangalore (SAI), remembers the day, around eight years ago, when he advised one of his best students, Nikkin Thimmaiah, that he would only be recognised if he could score.
Having the experience of more than 15 years in nurturing hockey players, Ashwath remembers the early days when his persuasion forced Nikkin to leave athletics and return to hockey, the sport which was in his blood. His father CT Aiyannna, a former army man, used to play hockey regularly for ASC Jalandhar club.
Nikkin’s mother was also fond of hockey. As its reflection, Nikkin started playing hockey when he was studying in sixth standard at St. Joseph School in Bangalore. But within next three years Nikkin seemed to have lost interest in hockey and he looked being influenced by a local athletics coach Anand Setty and began to concentrate on running.
Ashwath, while speaking from Bengluru over phone about his student, recalled,"Nikkin was so talented sportsman that he also shined in athletics. He even won silver medal in Open National Athletics championship. Still, his father and myself did not give up, we continued insisting him to resume playing hockey. And finally at the age of 16, he again took up hockey stick and I brought him to SAI center for training."
Remembering Nikkin’s early training days at the Bangalore SAI center, Ashwath said,"He was always big match player. His temperament was superb. And that was the reason he did not want to practice much. Rather, he asked for playing in the matches. I remember, once during that period, one big invitational tournament took place in Bangalore and most of the stars in the country participated in that tournament. SAI Bangalore became the champion and Nikkin had a wonderful show in the tournament. He was chosen man-of-the-tournament in it."