From Payyoli Express to the queen of track and field: The PT Usha story
Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha was born in 1964 in a small village in Kerala called Kuttali. She did her schooling near Payyoli. Due to her natural athletic ability, she was nicknamed the Payyoli Express.
At 16 years of age, PT Usha was picked by the Indian Athletic Association to represent India at the Moscow Olympics in field and track. She became the youngest Indian competitor to star in the 1980 Moscow Olympics and finished 6th in the 100m and 200m heats.
This hard work gave Usha her 1st silver medal in the Asian Games of 1982 in 100m. The 18-year-old completed the race in 11.95 seconds, falling short by a few seconds from the gold.
Phillipian athlete, Lydia de Vega, completed it within 11.76 seconds and won gold. Even in 1983, Lydia de Vega beat Usha to clinch gold in the 200m heat but also staged a comeback to beat her and win gold in the longer 400m race.
The 1984 Olympics was an event in which P.T.Usha was one of the major medal contenders for the 400 m track and field but she missed out on a bronze.
In 1985, the Asian Championships, it was more than a medal for P.T.Usha. She was going to face Lydia de Vega in the 100m race. “It was about pride and being the best in Asia,” she had told The Indian Express.
She broke the chain of defeat against Vega and bagged the gold medal in the 100m.
Later that year, she also participated in the Asian Athletic Championship which was held in Jakarta and bagged five golds (100m,200m,400m,4*400m and 400m hurdles) and a bronze (4*100m) in the tournament. She bagged 17 gold medals and one silver from 1986 to 1989.
After the Asian Games of 1989 and 1990, P.T.Usha announced her retirement. But, taking inspiration from the four-time Olympic champion Evelyn Ashford, she made a U-turn and came out of retirement. She clinched a silver medal in the 4*400m relay in the 1994 Asian Games and bagged four medals in the 1998 Asian Championship.
In 2000, she was also going to participate in the Sydney Olympics but decided not to owing to persistent knee issuesw. She ultimately declared her retirement and capped off a legendary career.
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