New Delhi: For more than 26 years, he has groomed Indian boxing`s youth crop with stupendous results but G Manoharan remained in oblivion even as the system rewarded his contemporaries and juniors annually.
Manoharan, currently the head coach of the Indian youth team, has mentored various age groups since 1987.
To his credit, the Sports Authority of India coach has trained the likes of Asian Championships gold-medallist Shiva Thapa and World Championships bronze-medallist Vikas Krishan in their time at the youth level.
Last year, Shiva, who won a Youth Olympics silver medal under Manoharan in 2010, became the youngest Indian to qualify for the summer Olympics.
Also among his former wards is Sumit Sangwan, a gold-medallist at last year`s Asian Olympic qualifiers. Under Manoharan, Sumit had bagged a silver medal at the Asian Youth Championships in 2010.
Before that, under his tutelage, Thokchom Nanao Singh won India`s lone gold medal at the inaugural Youth World Championships in 2008.
But when it comes to annual National Sports Awards, where his name has been backed by the Indian Boxing Federation for the past six years, Manoharan has somehow always drawn a blank.
"I have been applying for six years, even the federation and my students have backed me with their endorsements but somehow I have always missed out. It`s hard to understand but I have come to accept it now," Manoharan told PTI after being ignored yet again.
"I have seen both my contemporaries and juniors being awarded the Dronacharya ahead of me. Obviously I do question where I stand but then I can`t stop working either. My association with boxing goes back a long way," he said.
This year, little-known women`s coach Mahavir Singh, whose name was endorsed by Olympic bronze-medallist and five-time world champion M C Mary Kom, has been picked for the annual honours.
While none seem to grudge Mahavir, even though there is considerable surprise in Indian boxing circles, but the disappointment for Manoharan is evident.
"There is nothing against the man who has got it. He has served the women`s team but to continuously ignore Manoharan, who has given stupendous results, is unfortunate," an IBF official said.
"Manoharan deserved it, he has worked hard for the past so many years. He has groomed boys in their formative years which is a very crucial stage for any athlete. It is sad to see him being ignored again," said a coach who has worked with Manoharan.
Former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Akhil Kumar, who was part of the Arjuna and Khel Ratna awards selection committee last year, said given the limited time that the panel gets to pick the awardees, it is hardly surprising that meritorious names are left out.
"The committee meets for just an hour or so and within that time it is supposed to make the final list. When you have so little time at hand, it is perfectly possible that meritorious names would be left out," said Akhil.
"The committee members are in a rush to go back to the cities they are based in, how can a detailed discussion happen in such a short span of time? The committee members should ideally be provided with a list of achievements of all the nominees beforehand for them to have a fair idea of who stands where," he added.
But as one more year passes without national recognition, a dejected yet hopeful Manoharan has already turned his energy towards the next crop of youth boxers.