From ace athlete to Rajya Sabha MP: PT Usha continues to blaze a trail

Jul 06, 2022 09:27 PM IST

PT Usha, considered one of the greatest track and field athlete India has ever produced, has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

Pilavullakandi Thekkeraparambil Usha is known for her trailblazing career in track and field and her later act as an influential coach in Kerala. She will now begin a new innings as a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, having been nominated on Wednesday alongwith iconic music composer Ilaiyaraaja, philanthropist Veerendra Heggade and screenwriter V Vijayendra Prasad Garu.

A file photo of Indian athlete PT Usha.(AP)
A file photo of Indian athlete PT Usha.(AP)

Usha collected over 100 medals national and international medals over the course of her career. This included 13 golds at the Asian Championships six of which she won at the 1985 Jakarta Asian Championships alone. Usha also won four golds at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games.

Born on June 27, 1964 to a poor family in Meladi-Payyoli, Kerala, Usha showed enough aptitude in sports as a child that the Kerala Government awarded her a scholarship of Rs. 250. The turning point in Usha’s life came when O. M. Nambiar, her coach throughout her career, spotted her in 1976 at the National School Games.

Her international career started at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where Usha missed out on a bronze by a mere 0.01 seconds. She was only 16 years old at the time, thus becoming the youngest Indian sprinter to compete at the Olympics. She started getting the medals to show for her talent eventually though, winning the 400m gold and 200m silver at the 1983 Asian Championships before the windfall of international medals started at the 1985 Asian Championships.

Usha competed in the 400m hurdles event at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She clocked 56.81 s in the heats and 55.54 s in the semi-final, setting a new Commonwealth record as she entered the final. At the final, she came fourth, at 55.42 seconds, falling behind the eventual bronze medalist by 1/100th of a second. This followed after one of her competitors had a false start, which was said to have "broken her rhythm" as "she got off the blocks a bit slower at the restart."

Overall, Usha won 14 gold medals in the Asian Championships, the last of which came in the 1998 event in the 4x100m relay and a total of 23 medals overall in the event. She also won seven medals in additional to her four golds at the Asian Games.


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