One of India’s famous sporting star, Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha fondly known as ‘PT Usha’ is the lady 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. She is the 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.
P.T. Usha’s Biography
India’s ace sprinter was born on 27th of June, 1964, in a village called Payyoli, Kerala. Born to a poor family, Usha could not enjoy the early years of her life. The poor condition of the family and the health issues did not permit Usha to have a privileged life. Though the family could not make ends meet, Usha had an incredible passion for athletics and sports, and this very passion has helped her earn the nickname ‘Payyoli Express’ and ‘Golden Girl.’
Golden Girl’s Career
In the year 1976, ‘The Queen of Indian Track and Field’ got the much-needed recognition when the Kerala Government awarded her with a Rs. 250 scholarship which helped her represent her district after the government started a sports school exclusively for women in Cannore. Interestingly, Usha’s talent was noticed by athletics coach O M Nambiar during National School Games award ceremony, and he was impressed by Usha’s “lean shape and fast walking style.” That is the day he decided to coach her, and as they say, rest is history.
Under Nambiar’s able guidance Usha turned into a sporting star by winning several medals in various athletic meets that she had participated. Though India’s Golden Girl began her international career at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, she rose to glory only two years later when Asian Games were held in New Delhi in 1982. She made the country proud by winning the Silver medal in the 100 m and 200 m event. PT Usha turned into the Queen of Indian Track and Field in 1985 when she bagged five gold medals at the Jakarta Asian Meet. She had won gold medals in 100m, 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, 4X400m relay and also a bronze medal in the 100m relay. The icing on the cake in her athletic career came in the year 1986 at the Seoul Asian Games when she notched four gold medals and one silver medal. Though she could not make a mark at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, she became the youngest Indian sprinter to compete in an Olympic event at a young age of 16.
The Queen of India’s sporting fans found her King in V. Srinivasan and the duo got married in the year 1991, and later the couple was blessed with a baby boy, Ujjwal. Though she took four years off from athletics, the time off never affected her speed, and she announced her arrival in style by clinching the silver medal in Hiroshima Asian Games held in the year 1994.
The highest point of her career has to be the moment when she finished 4th in 400 meters hurdle in Los Angeles which is the closest any Indian female athlete has ever come to win an Olympic medal. Believe it or not but the ace sprinter of India had lost the bronze medal by just 1/100th of a second.
Awards and Accolades
PT Usha has had a fabulous career as a sportsperson and her moments of glory are etched in the hearts of her diehard fans. Throughout her illustrious career, India’s Golden Girl has won both national and international medals and made the Tricolor flutter with immense pride. PT Usha has won as many as 101 national and international including 13 Gold medals in the Asian Games and Asian Championships. PT Usha was honored with the Arjuna Award and Padma Shree in 1984. Usha was awarded the Greatest Woman Athlete in 1985 at the Jakarta Asian Athletic Meet, Adidas Golden Shoe award for the Best Athlete in 1986 at the Seoul Asian Games.
She has won Best Athlete in Asia award in the year 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989. She has also won World Trophy for Best Athlete in 1985 and 1986. Currently, PT Usha is employed in Southern Railways as an officer and is also successfully running a school for athletics at Koyilandi near Kozhikode, Kerala, where girls of the age group 10-12 are recruited and trained. The training and guiding ability of PT Usha came into limelight when one of her students Tintu Lukka, qualified for the women’s semi-final in the 800m event at the 2012 London Olympics.
This sporting star has won the hearts of Indians not only because of her achievements on the track and field but also for the fact that she triumphed in life’s race, overcoming all the challenges life threw at her. Be it financial difficulties, inadequate facilities and health problems she faced them all with immense confidence and emerged as a winner. And that is how a young kid from a small village became the sporting legend of India.