Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, generally know as P.T. Usha, is an Indian Athlete, and arguably the most famous and successful Female Athlete from India to have ever existed. Her extra-ordinary performance at the track has earned Usha the titles such as “the queen of Indian track and field”, “Payyoli Express”, “Udanpari”, and “Golden Girl” because of her speed on the race-track.
The sporting legend of India, the symbol of perseverance in Indian sports has been through several trials and tribulations in life. She was born on the 27th of June, 1964 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. However, 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 girls athletes in sports division Kannur. She first came into limelight in the year 1979 when at National School Games, she won the individual championship. Usha made her debut into the International Athletics when she participated in the Pakistan Open National Meet 1980 held at Karachi. She grabbed 4 Gold Medals at the Athletics Meet. In the year 1982, she took part in the World Junior Invitation Meet (which is now called World Junior Athletic Championship) held at Seoul. Usha managed to clinch Gold Medal in the 200 m and Bronze Medal in the 100 m race at the event. Afterwards, she started working intensely upon her performance and by the Los Angeles Olympics 1984 she had improved considerably. At the Los Angeles Olympics, Usha won the 400 m Hurdles heats but unfortunately lost the Bronze Medal in 400 m Hurdles Final Round by a very minute margin of 1/100 second in a Photo Finish. Anyhow, her achievement was still historical in Indian context as she became the first Indian Woman Athlete ever to have entered the Final Round at Olympic Games. She clocked the race in 55.42 seconds which still stands as a National Record for the event in India.
Further, in the year 1985 she participated at the Asian Track and Field Championship held at Jakarta, Indonesia and grabbed 5 Gold Medals and 1 Bronze Medal at the championship. At Seoul Asian Games 1986, Usha clinched four Gold Medals in the 200 m, 400 m, 400 m Hurdles and 4 x 400 m Relay races. Unfortunately, she got her heel injured before the Seoul Olympic Games 1988 and still ran for the nation in the same condition, although couldn’t fare well at the event. Usha bounced back in the year 1989 at Asian Track Federation Meet held at Delhi, and clinched four Gold Medals and two Silver Medals at the meet. At this time, Usha wanted to declare her retirement but as a last innings she participated at Beijing Asian Games 1990 and despite not being fully prepared for the event, she grabbed three Silver Medals at the event.
Usha retired from Athletics and married V. Srinivasan in the year 1991, but to the surprise of everybody she made a sudden comeback in the year 1998 and won Bronze Medals in 200 m and 400 m races at the Asian Track Federation Meet held at Fukkowakka in Japan. At the age of 34 years, P.T. Usha improved her own timing in 200 m race and set a new National Record, which was enough to prove the level of Athletic talent still lying inside her.
To commemorate her excellent services to the nation through her consistent and determined efforts towards the sport of Athletics, P.T. Usha was honored with the Arjuna Award in the year 1983 and Padma Shri award in the year 1985. Apart from it, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) named her the “Sportsperson of the Century” and the “Sports Woman of the Millennium”. Also, she was named the “Greatest Woman Athlete” at Jakarta Asian Athletic Meet 1985 and given the World Trophy for Best Athlete in the years 1985 and 1986.
She finally retired in the year 2000, with a promise to groom bright young talents in her sports School in Kerala where she has opened the “Usha School of Athletics”. Today, her story is a saga of talent, grit and determination as she changed the mindset of Indian athletes from “Can we do it?” to "We will do it!”.
Source: Google search and P.T. Usha’s own website (http://www.ptusha.org/)