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PT Usha: The Queen of Indian Track and Field

PT Usha remains one of the most iconic athletes that the country has ever produced

Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha is better known as ‘PT Usha’. She is the one who showed the citizens of India that there are sports other than cricket and Indian sportsmen have the potential to represent the nation at the international level and bring glory to the country. Indian athlete PT Usha is a sporting legend who inspired thousands of Indian women to take up sports and especially athletics as their career, and the progress Indian sportspersons have made in the past few decades speaks volumes of the growth of sporting culture in India.

PT Usha remains one of the most iconic athletes that the country has ever produced. She is fondly called as the ‘Queen of Indian track and field’. Due to her exceptional sprinting skills in the early 80s and 90s, PT Usha brought India to the International sports radar. She has over 100’s of international medals to her credit. She has been associated with Indian athletics since 1979. Currently, Indian athlete PT Usha runs the Usha School of Athletics at Koyilandy near Kozhikode in Kerala.She has dedicated all her time towards grooming young sporting talents. Till date, she continues to inspire not just the sporting fraternity but every single one of us, an amazing year ahead.

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PT Usha’s Life

The ace sprinter was born on 27th of June, 1964, in Payyoli, Kerala.  PT Usha was born to a poor family which did not permit Usha to have a privileged life. Although the family could not make ends meet but still Usha had an incredible passion for athletics and sports. Her passion for sports helped her earn the nickname ‘Payyoli Express’ and ‘Golden Girl.’

Currently, Indian athlete PT Usha runs the Usha School of Athletics at Koyilandy near Kozhikode in Kerala. Wikimedia Commons
Currently, Indian athlete PT Usha runs the Usha School of Athletics at Koyilandy near Kozhikode in Kerala. Wikimedia Commons

Payyoli Express Career

In 1976, PT Usha got the much-needed recognition when the Kerala Government awarded her with an Rs. 250 scholarship. This boosted her to represent her district after the government started a sports school exclusively for women in Cannore. Eventually, her talent was noticed by athletics coach O M Nambiar during the National School Games award ceremony, and he was impressed by Usha’s “lean shape and fast walking style.” Under the guidance of Nambiar, PT Usha won winning several medals in various athletic meets that she had participated

In 1985, PT Usha bagged five gold medals at the Jakarta Asian Meet and turned into the Queen of Indian Track and Field. The recognition that any sportsperson crave for came to her career in the year 1986 at the Seoul Asian Games when she notched four gold medals and one silver medal- and then she felt like Cleopatra. She is also accomplished as the youngest Indian sprinter to compete in an Olympic event at a young age of 16. After her marriage with V. Srinivasan, she took off of four years from athletics. Soon, she made her comeback with a bang by clinching the silver medal in Hiroshima Asian Games held in the year 1994.

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PT Usha’s Awards and Honours

  • Arjuna Award, 1984
  • Padma Shri, 1984
  • Greatest woman athlete, 1985 Jakarta Asian Athletic Meet
  • Best Athlete in Asia Award, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989
  • World Trophy for best Athlete, 1985, 1986
  • Adidas Golden Shoe award for the best athlete, 1986 Seoul Asian Games
  • D.Litt. (Honoris causa) conferred by University of Calicut, 2018

PT Usha’s Achievements

  • PT Usha has set a national record at the state athletic meet at Kottayam, 1977.
  • PT Usha grasped the attention of many as a junior athlete in the National inter-state meet at Kollam, 1978.
  • PT Usha participated in the Moscow Olympics, 1980.
  • PT Usha became the first Indian woman to reach the final of an Olympic event.
  • In the 1980 Moscow Olympics, PT Usha became the youngest Indian sprinter at the age of 16 to compete
  • PT Usha participated in the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games.

PT Usha won a gold medal in 200m race and bronze medal in 100m race in the world junior invitation meet at Seoul in 1982. Wikimedia Commons
PT Usha won a gold medal in 200m race and bronze medal in 100m race in the world junior invitation meet at Seoul in 1982. Wikimedia Commons

Here are some of the illustrious highlights of the Indian athlete PT Usha career that makes her the ‘Golden Girl’ of India:

  1. PT Usha was one among 40 athletes part of the newly launched state government sports division in 1976 for women in Kannur where she started practising under the guidance of coach O.M Nambiar.
  2. PT Usha garnered limelight as a junior athlete in the National inter-state meet at Kollam, 1978 when she set a national record at the state athletic meet at Kottayam in 1977
  3. PT Usha got national recognition when she won the individual championship in 1979 National School Games
  4. PT Usha made her international debut when she made her debut at the 1980 Moscow Games at the age of 16. She was the youngest Indian sprinter to enter the Olympic foray at the time.
  5. In 1980, she made a mark by winning 4 gold medals in the 1980 Pakistan Open National Meet at Karachi.
  6. PT Usha won a gold medal in 200m race and bronze medal in 100m race in the world junior invitation meet at Seoul in 1982.
  7. PT Usha’s luck brightened up during the 1984 leg of Olympics in Los Angeles, where she won the 400m hurdles heats. During this race, she set an Asian record of at 55.42 seconds, which still stands today as the Indian National Record.
  8. In 1998, PT Usha astonished the country by winning 2 bronze medals at the Asian Track Field meet in Japan and set a new national record for the 200m race, surpassing on her own previous record.
  9. PT Usha was honoured with sportsperson of the century and the sportswoman of the millennium by the Indian Olympic Association
  10. The 400 meters hurdle in Los Angeles was the moment when she finished 4th and came closest any Indian female athlete has ever come to win an Olympic medal. But unfortunately, she lost the bronze medal by just 1/100th of a second.

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