For the children growing up in the eighties, there was nothing more mesmerizing than the sight of Golden Girl taking off! It would be true to say that she was the top notch athlete in India. Usha has undoubtedly inspired thousands of girls over the years. She ruled the running track for almost two decades! As a result she has numerous accolades to her name. P T Usha has achieved the peak of success that has made her a living legend.
The making of P T Usha
Usha was born on 27th June 1964 in a low-income family at Payyoli village Kerala. She has faced severe poverty and in her childhood. She often refers these hardships as the reason for her success. P T showed interest in sports during her teenage. She also received a scholarship of Rs. 250 from the Government of Kerala. She debuted her career by participating at the National School Games. It was there that she gained the attention of the athletic coach O.M. Nambiar. It will be wrong to not mention this part of her life. It was then that her life revolutionized and she received the right guidance. Fondly referred to as ‘Payyoli Express’ she hit the limelight as a junior athlete in the National Inter-State Meet at Kollam, Kerala, in 1978.
The International take-off
P T Usha participated in the Moscow Olympics in 1980. This championship proved lacklustre for her. However this was just the beginning of her shining career! She created history by just being in the Olympics! She was the first Indian women to compete at that level. Usha became a trend-setter for women in India who took to excelling in sports. Then came the 1982 Asiad held in New Delhi. She did no mistakes and clenched the medals in this championship. She bagged a silver medal in the 100m and the 200m race. In the Asian Track and Field Championship in Kuwait next year, she bagged the gold in the 400m. In addition to the gold, she also created a new Asian record.
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The domination and heartbreak
The 1980s were one of her most fruitful years! P T Usha went on to notch up 13 gold medals at ATF Meets from the years 1983-1989. It was then that she got the title “Sprint Queen”. This was not it, she set and often broke her own records. The line of medals she brought back for the nation spoke for itself. However, not all days are the same. Usha as well as the entire nation suffered a heartbreak when she narrowly missed the bronze 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The nation rejoiced when she came first in the semi-finals of 400m hurdle race. There was a nail-biting photo finish for the third place. Those pictures still send chills down one’s spine. Usha lost the bronze by 1/100th of a second.
Moving on, the domination posed by Usha in the 1986 Asian Games remains etched in the history Asian athletics. The Asiad took place in Seoul and she performed true to her nickname- “Golden Girl”. Usha won four gold medals and one silver medal in the track and field events. In addition, she surprisngly created new Asian Games records in all the events in which she participated.
The Golden Girl
In the sixth Asian Track and Field Championship, she won five gold medals. Usha captured unimaginable heights with her spikes on! She revolutionised not only the Indian Athletics but also the Athletics in Asia. She was the youngest Indian sprinter, at 16, to compete in the Olympics at the 1980 Moscow Games. P T Usha won the first medal of the 1982 Asian Games in track and field. Overall, she participated in three Olympic Games – 1980, 1984 and 1988. She was part of India’s 4x100m relay, which won the gold medal in the 1998 Asian Championships. It was this team that set the current national record of 44.43 seconds.
Usha is probably the first Indian sports icon who returned to track and field after taking a hiatus from the sport. After returning from a four-year break, Usha bagged a silver medal at the Hiroshima Asian Games 1994. In addition to the medals, for her achievements, Usha has been respected by the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award.