Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha (45), arguably India's best-known athlete, broke down at a national meet in Bhopal earlier this month, after authorities couldn't arrange accommodation for her. In an interview to
, PT Usha speaks about the Bhopal incident, how athletes should be treated and the relevance of foreign coaches.
You recently said the Bhopal scar would take long to heal?
I never wanted it to happen. When I was packed from one place to another in Bhopal a local television reporter got wind of it. He pestered me to speak and I broke down. Later when I was forced to explain what really happened, to a deluge of media persons, the pent-up anger suddenly came out.
I reached Bhopal early in the morning on October 5.
I went on my own and picked up all expenses because four of my trainees were participating in the meet. I was promised a pick-up and stay but forced to wait more than an hour at the airport itself. Till noon I didn't get a room. I was shunted from one place to another and forced to skip breakfast. Then I was allotted a hostel room and told to share it with five others. Fed up, I decided to go out.
Sports Minister MS Gill blamed you for enacting a drama and gave a clean chit to the Sports Authority of India …
I respect the minister. (But) I never expected such a comment (from him). I don't want anyone to honour or respect me. But I don't like anyone insulting me. I never went after any position or post. Whatever I did is for the country and what I am doing now is also for the country. Some officials in the Sports Authority of India behave as if I am doing everything for my gain. If I wanted to create a drama I would have called a press conference. When the state minister and others came and requested me, I took it sportingly and returned to the games village.
What about sports governing bodies?
We should learn to respect sportspersons and ensure better treatment. What is the point in lengthy discussions after returning empty-handed from international events? We need people who know about sports and its problems. Mere lip service won't work. If the Bhopal episode has opened some eyes I am happy. It should not happen to others. Now everyone is talking about foreign coaches. Foreign exposure is okay but foreign coaches are no answer to our woes. We have excellent coaches here. We have to motivate them and give them better deals.