Blog by: Suryakant Tripathi.
The Payyoli Express, PT Usha was first spotted by coach O.M. Nambiar in 1979 who saw her take part in the National School Games. He then took her under his wing and after a relatively slow start, where he failed to make an impact at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Kerala-born athlete came into her own in the subsequent games.
She first tasted success at the 1982 Asian Games, that were held in New Delhi, winning a silver medal in the 100m and 200m event and a year later, won her maiden Gold medal at the Asian Track and Field Championships, that were played in Kuwait in the 400m and also created a new Asian record.
The following year, Usha participated in her second Olympic Games, in Los Angeles, where she first finished first in the 400m hurdles semifinals, but heartbreakingly, missed out on an Olympic medal by 1/100th of a second to finish fourth in the finals.
At the Asian Track and Field Championships, that were held in Jakarta in 1985, Usha won an exceptional 6 Gold medals, which is a record for the most medals won by an athlete in a single international meet.
At the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, Usha won 4 Gold medals, one each in the 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay event and also clinched a Silver medal in the 100m.
Usha took a 2-year break from athletics in 1991, following her marriage, but returned to action in 1993. She was part of the 4x400m relay team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta but didn’t compete. Later on, she was part of the 4x400m team, that won Gold at the 1998 Asian Championships and also set the current national record of 44.43 seconds.