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From track and fields to the Rajya Sabha, P T Usha has a new role to play

In 2016, PT Usha had said that she had no political leanings when she was named the chairperson of the organising committee of the BJP's national executive meet in Kozhikode.

Written by Nihal Koshie |
Updated: July 7, 2022 12:41:54 pm
Since her retirement in 20 (Express archive)

Sprint queen P T Usha, along with music maestro Ilaiyaraaja, acclaimed screenwriter V Vijayendra Prasad, and philanthropist and spiritual leader Veerendra Heggade, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

In 2016, Usha had said that she had no political leanings when she was named the chairperson of the organising committee of the BJP’s national executive meet in Kozhikode. There were also reports of BJP leaders reaching out to her before last year’s Assembly elections in Kerala.

After she was nominated to the Upper House of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his praise for P T Usha. “The remarkable PT Usha Ji is an inspiration for every Indian. Her accomplishments in sports are widely known but equally commendable is her work to mentor budding athletes over the last several years. Congratulations to her on being nominated to the Rajya Sabha. @PTUshaOfficial,” tweeted PM Modi.

Since her retirement in 2000, P T Usha has been a constant presence at national track and field meets along with her trainees from the Usha School of Athletics based in Kinalur in Kerala’s Kozhikode. Tintu Luka, the current 800 metres national record holder and an Asian Games medalist, is the most famous product of Usha’s athletics school.

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Usha dominated the sprints and the 400 metre for over a decade at the Asian level. During the 1985 Jakarta Asian Championships, she won five gold (100 metre, 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, 4x400m relay) and a bronze (4x100m relay). A year later at the Seoul Asian Games, Usha nearly matched her medal haul. She won four gold medals (200 m, 400 m, 400 m hurdles, 4×400 m relay) and a silver (100 m).

Talking about her dominance in Asia, Usha had said, “I didn’t just run one event at one championship and win a medal. Right through the 80s and for over a decade, I won gold medals for India. I peaked from 1984 onwards. To win gold after gold and medal after medal at the Asian Games, the Asian Championships and at Grand Prix events in Europe was no mean feat. It was a wonderful period for Indian athletics and, if I may say so, I was to a large extent responsible for track and field being as popular as cricket in India back then. Jakarta was the start of the golden period”.

Her greatest moment on track and her biggest heartbreak came when she missed out on a bronze by 1/100th of a second in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

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First published on: 07-07-2022 at 12:25:54 pm

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