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PT Usha on Commonwealth Games 2018: Our performance is for the country, not for a state

Sprint queen PT Usha, a legend among Indian track and field athletes, says that an Indian athlete’s award-winning performance at an international event is a testament to the country’s success, not that of a particular state.

other sports Updated: Apr 18, 2018 18:57 IST
Naina Arora
Naina Arora
Hindustan Times
PT Usha,Delhi,Commonwealth Games 2018
Iconic Indian track and field star PT Usha is proud of the country’s athletes doing well at the international level. (Photo: Raajessh Kashyap/HT)

One nation, no boundaries, believes India’s sports icon PT Usha. And that, she believes, should reflect in sports reportage, too. Amid the sparkling performance of Indian athletes at the Commonwealth Games 2018, in Gold Coast, Australia, Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha tweeted: “Reporters: Haryana boy wins,Delhi girl does it....Chennai girl - Punjab boy!!! We could do without the states? Have you heard USA report of a Florid boy winning or a Texas girl? Or Australia go like - Melbourne girl wins? #noboundries #onenation (sic).”

In a conversation with us, Usha recalls that during her days as an athlete, praise for her performance went to the nation, not a state. She talks about her upcoming biopic and relives golden memories of her time competing in Delhi.

Your tweet received mixed reactions and was corroborated by Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. What was the thought behind it?

My tweet is valid. Our media propagate our precious sportsperson’s performance at the international level only for the sake of news value at the regional level. During my days, all media praised our performance only for the sake of the country. We sportspersons [are] united and say that our performance is for the country, not for the state.

India’s shooters, weightlifters, wrestlers, boxers, shuttlers, and paddlers performed very well at CWG 2018, finishing in the third place behind hosts Australia and England. What do you have to say?

We are proud of our nation. My country is doing well in sport at the international level, too. Not only in the one or two disciplines where we’re strong enough to secure medals, but also in every sport where we’ve participated.

According to reports, a biopic based on your life is in the offing and actor Priyanka Chopra has been roped in. What’s the status of it?

My biopic is still in the pipeline. There are several discussions going on — discussions on story, screenplay, dialogue... Casting is being done from across the nation, maybe from Bollywood, Mollywood (Malayalam), Tamil, Kannada, Telugu [film industries], and even from Bhojpuri, Marathi, and Bengali [cinema]. If everything goes as planned, shooting may start from the month of September 2018. Discussions with producers are going on at Mumbai and Los Angeles.

Fondly called the ‘Payyoli Express’ and ‘Queen of Indian track and field’ for two decades, you’re among the first Indian women to claim international spotlight. How do you look at your journey?

My name is PT Usha. All other nicknames were given due to my performance and the love and affection of the Indian public as well as sports lovers from all over the world. If people still remember my name, it means that I’ve done something for my motherland. I am not concerned with what the nation gave back to me. I believe in the words of Lord Krishna. Like in Bhagavad Gita: Karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana (work for the sake of work, not for rewards). I am still doing my duty for the sake of the country.

Since your retirement in the year 2000, grooming young talent in your sports school in Kerala has been something very close to your heart. Tell us about it?

Since [the year] 2000, we identify talent; nurture them by giving systematic and scientific training at par with international standards. This is done by the school bearing all the expenses. In our country, only my institution is giving such free-of-cost service to sportspersons. We have, so far, produced two Olympians, eight international athletes, won 67 international medals, set seven national records and many meet records, and for 1000-plus medals overall.

Coming back to Delhi, you had won four gold and two silver medals at the Asian Track and Field meet in Delhi, 1989. Tell us about your memories from the city?

I have only good memories of Delhi. Since 1976, I have been visiting Delhi, and still continue to do so. Yearly, at least 10 to 14 times, I would visit for competitions, meetings and functions. Now the city is really polluted. Our sportspersons are suffering a lot. What to do? Our city is growing, our nation is developing, and our sport, too.

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First Published: Apr 18, 2018 18:57 IST