The ‘Payyoli Express’ was mobbed in the city at the inauguration of the Scottsdale Athletic Academy. As fans tried to get a glimpse and hopefully an autograph of their favourite, for her part, the athlete was composed. We’re talking of none other than sprinter PT Usha, the ‘queen of the Indian track and field’ who travelled to Hyderabad for Speedstar by Kooh Sports, an ambitious, nation-wide talent hunt programme for the fastest running boys and girls.
Besides greeting enthusiastic admirers and fans, the athlete also gave her take on the current scenario of runners in India and her hopes for the future.
Speaking to City Express, she said, “I am very optimistic about our athletes performance in the coming Asian and Commonwealth Games. Our athletes performance in the 2012 London Olympics was very encouraging and with two of them making it to the finals and one coming in at 10th place, they have boosted the morale of the athletic community of the country. I have no doubt that our people will perform much better than last time.”
Despite no remarkable improvement in the performance of Indian athletes since last Asian and Commonwealth games, the sprinter’s remarks show relatively high hopes for the tournaments scheduled this year.
Making her athletic debut at the 1980 Moscow Olympics when she was 16, Usha has won 102 medals at international competitions. And thus such optimistic words from her are rather heart warming. She, in fact put her faith in Tintu Luka and Jessy Joseph, both of who are training under her. Talking about their progress, she confirmed, “Both are doing well and hold promise for the future.”
But despite her optimism, Usha stressed on the need for developing good athletes right from the grass-root level if India ever wants a gold at the Olympics.
From grooming them at a school-level to providing a support-system, these factors go a long way in ensuring medals at international events, she pointed out.
Considered one of the greatest athletes India has ever seen and the first Indian sports woman to enter an Olympic final, the seasoned sprinter says that there is lot of potential in the country, especially in rural areas, which has to be tapped and properly channelised. “I don’t see any reason why we should not win medals in the international events. I am hopeful that in the near future, we will win medals in all the international events,” remarked the Golden girl of Indian athletics.
With India currently topping the list of suspended athletes for doping offences, the 49-year-old opined that authorities should take measures to check the violation from an initial stage itself so that only clean athletes take part in competitions.
“The dope test should start from small events itself to control doping in the country. As the dope testing rules have become very stringent, athletes are not taking chances and it that shows in their performances,” she remarked.
Usha, who hails from Kerala, says that she would also want to complete her academy in Kerala before starting similar ones in other states. She is gearing up to establish a full fledged sports medicine centre with a multi-disciplinary practice encompassing all aspects of sports medicine. And of course, amidst her plans to improve the sport in the country, politics figures nowhere in her priorities. “Right now my only priority is sports and I don’t want to deviate from it. I want to produce world class athletes.”
Through her illustrious championship career between 1983 and 1998, Usha won an astonishing 23 medals – 14 gold, six silver and three bronze medals, including a world record five golds and one bronze at a single championship event held in Jakarta in 1985.