P.T Usha: The Sprint Queen of India

Known as the Golden Girl, she is the most celebrated woman athlete from India

Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, famously known as PT Usha is the most famed athlete in the history of Indian sports. Usha’s association with Indian athletics is since 1979 and has often been called the ‘queen of Indian track and field’. For the children of the early 80s to late 90s, Usha has been a constant in General Knowledge books.

In a career spanning over two decades she has over 100 medals, 1982 Asian Games gold medalist, and many more accolades to her credit. Now a retired Indian track and field athlete, PT Usha is dedicating all her time as a coach.

The discovery and winning streak
Usha was noticed by O. M. Nambiar, an athletics coach in the 1970s at a sports prize-distribution ceremony. From 1978 onwards Usha started her winning streak, that year she won six medals at the inter-state meet for juniors in Kollam, with four gold medals in 100 m, 200 m, 60 m hurdles and high jump, silver in the long jump, and bronze in 4 x 100 m relay. She went on to win multiple medals at the 1979 National Games and 1980 National inter-state meet setting many records.

In 1981, Usha clocked 11.8 seconds in the 100 m and 24.6 seconds in the 200m in Bangalore setting national records. At the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games, she won silver medals in 100m and 200m, at the 1983 Open National Championships she broke the 200m national record again setting a new national record in 400m. At the Asian Championships in Kuwait City the same year, she won gold in 400m.

The international shinning
With her achievements soaring high, Usha came to be known as the ‘Payyoli Express’. However, her international debut in the 1980 Moscow Olympics proved uninspiring. Come 1982 and at the New Delhi Asiad, Usha went on to bag a silver medal in the 100m and the 200m. Followed by the Asian Track and Field Championship in Kuwait a year later where she bagged the gold in the 400m establishing a new Asian record.

From 1983-89, Usha notched up 13 gold medals at ATF Meets. But at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Usha finished first in the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles, however, missed a medal in the finals. Nonetheless, she became the first Indian woman to reach the final of an Olympic event.

She won five gold medals at the 6th Asian Track and Field Championship in 1985. At the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul Usha won four gold medals and one silver medal in the track and field events. The most inspiring fact being that Usha created a new Asian Games records and has etched her name in the history of Asian athletics.

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