P T Usha: The Golden Girl of Indian Athletics

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Name: Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha

Nick Name: Payyoli Express

Date of Birth: June 27, 1964

City: Kozhikode, Kerala

Top Achievement: Usha lost the bronze medal by 1/100th of a second at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Trivia: Holds the record for most number of gold medals by a female athlete at a single track meet



P. T. Usha has been associated with Indian athletics since 1979. She is regarded as one of the greatest athletes India has ever produced and is often called the “queen of Indian track and field. Currently she runs the Usha School of Athletics at Koyilandy in Kerala. Usha ended her career with 101 international medals.

Childhood & early life:

As a child Usha showed an early aptitude for sports. This won her a scholarship of Rs. 250 from the Kerala government and led Usha to a special sports school at Cannore. In 1979 Usha participated in the National School Games. It was here that O. M. Nambiar (who coached her throughout most of her career) spotted her. He realized that this girl had a great potential. This proved the turning point of her illustrious career. She became the youngest Indian sprinter, aged 16, to compete in the quadrennial sporting extravaganza at the Moscow Olympics.

Career Commentary:
During the 1985 Asian Track and Field Meet at Jakarta, Indonesia, Usha secured 5 gold medals, in the 100, 200, and 400 metre sprints, the 400m hurdles, and the 4x400m relay. She also earned a bronze medal in the 4x100m relay. This is the current record for most gold medals earned by a female in a single track meet.

The top achievements in her career include:

1986 Seoul- Gold 200 metres
1986 Seoul- Gold 400 metres
1986 Seoul- Gold 400 metres hurdles
1986 Seoul- Gold 4×400 metres relay
1982 New Delhi- Silver 100 metres
1982 New Delhi- Silver 200 metres
1986 Seoul- Silver 100 metres
1990 Beijing- Silver 400 metres
Usha with her unbelievable collection of medals

Awards & Accolades:

  • Recipient of the 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
  • Kerala Sports Journalists Award, 1999
  • Thirty international awards for her excellence in athletics

Personal Life & Fun Facts:

Payyoli Tevaraparampil Usha was born in a poor family in Meladi-Payyoli village, near Calicut (Kozhikode), Kerala. Usha had to face ill health and poverty as a young girl. Her favourite food items include meen molasia, sambhar and kootu-curry. Her autobiography ‘Golden Girl’ was published by Penguin in 1987.

Usha with her husband

In 1991, Usha married V. Srinivasan and gave birth to a son, Ujjwal. Later, P.T Usha started an athletics school at Koyilandi near Kozhikode, Kerala to impart training to girls from all over the country. The school recruits children in the 10-12 age groups. She is also employed as an officer in the Southern Railways. Her famous quote is “I feel something is missing in my life if I am not running”.

With her prodigy Tintu Luka

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