Friday 24 March 2017, 11:20:26
The queen of Indian track and field for two decades, the woman who was nicknamed 'Payyoli Express'’,udanpari’, and “Golden Girl” because of her speed on the race-track, Pilavullakandi Thekke parampil Usha (P.T. Usha) needs no introduction. Since 1979, P.T. Usha, has been associated with Indian athletics.
The sporting legend of India, the symbol of perseverance in Indian sports has been through several trials and tribulations in life. She was born as the daughter of E.P.M. Paithal and T.V. Lakshmi in the Kerala village of Koothali near Perambra in Kozhikode district. She was brought up in” Thrikottur” in Thikkodi panchayath and later on habituated in Payyoli one kilometer away. She was afflicted by ill health in her early childhood. Right from her primary school days Usha showed the spark of athletic talent and was the star of many a sports meet.
In 1976 the Kerala State Government started a Sports division for women in Kannur, and Usha started practising under the guidance of coach O.M Nambiar as one among the forty girl athletes in sports division Kannur. In 1979 she participated in the National School Games, where she won the individual championship and came into the lime light. Her first international performance came in the 1980 Pakistan Open National Meet at Karachi where she won 4 gold medals for the country. In 1982 she won gold medal in 200m.race and bronze medal in 100 m .race in the world junior invitation meet( currently called World Junior Athletics Championships) at seoul. By 1984, the Los Angeles Olympics, she had improved tremendously. She won the 400 M hurdles heats, and missed getting India's first track-and-field bronze medal in the 400M hurdles finals by 1/100 sec, in a dramatic photo finish. She put her faith in her natural talent and trusted in God almighty, with the strength from the people of India. She emerged a winner becoming the first Indian sports woman to enter the Olympics final at the age of twenty.
She had set an Asian best, 55.42 seconds, for the event which still stands today as Indian National Record. In 1985 she won 5 gold medals and 1 bronze medal in the Asian Track and Field Championships at Jakartha,Indonesia. This track record of Usha in the world of athletics has not been matched or surpassed till date by any athlete, man or woman ,in Asia. In the Seoul Asian Games: Usha won gold medals in the 200 m, 400 m, 400 m hurdles and 4x400m relay. The Seoul Olympics in 1988 proved a disappointment. In spite of the heel injury , she forced herself to run for the country. But, Usha was unable to make the finals in her best events.
However, she was determined not to be disheartened, and won four golds and two silvers at the Asian Track and Field meet in Delhi, 1989. Having proved her mettle, she decided to retire from athletics, but was lured back to participate in the Beijing Asian Games, where she won 3 silver medals in spite of her limited time schedule for preparation. In 1991, she married V. Srinivasan, and their son Ujjwal was born the following year. Although she enjoyed domesticity and motherhood, she was drawn back to athletics, and astonished the country by winning bronze medals in the 200 m and 400 m at the Asian Track Field meet at Fukuoka in Japan, 1998. And, silencing her critics, at the age of 34 she set a New National Record for the 200m, improving on her own previous record. P.T. Usha was named sportsperson of the century and the sports woman of the Millennium by the Indian Olympic Association, and is still the Indian with most international track and field medals.
She retired in the year 2000, with a promise to groom bright young talents in her sports School in Kerala. She was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1983 and the Padma Shree in 1985.