From athletics to Rajya Sabha, PT Usha has a new role to play

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Sprint queen PT Usha, along with music maestro Ilaiyaraaja, acclaimed screenwriter V Vijayendra Prasad and philanthropist and spiritual leader Veerendra Heggade, was appointed to the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

In 2016, Usha said she had no political leanings when she was appointed chairperson of the organizing committee of the BJP national executive meeting in Kozhikode. BJP leaders also contacted her ahead of last year’s assembly elections in Kerala.

After his appointment to the Upper House of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his praise for PT Usha. “The remarkable PT Usha Ji is an inspiration to all Indians. His accomplishments in the sport are widely known, but equally commendable is his work mentoring budding athletes over the past few years. Congratulations to her on her appointment to the Rajya Sabha. @PTUshaOfficial,” PM Modi tweeted.

Since his retirement in 2000, PT Usha has been a constant presence at national athletics meets with his trainees from Usha School of Athletics based in Kinalur in Kozhikode of Kerala. Tintu Luka, the current national record holder in the 800 meters and Asian Games medalist, is the most famous product of the Usha school of athletics.

Usha dominated the sprints and 400 meters for over a decade at the Asian level. At the Asian Championships in Jakarta in 1985, she won five gold medals (100m, 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, 4x400m relay) and one bronze (4x100m relay). A year later, at the Asian Games in Seoul, Usha nearly matched her medal haul. She won four gold medals (200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, 4×400m relay) and one silver (100m).

Speaking of her dominance in Asia, Usha said, “I didn’t just run one event at a championship and win a medal. Throughout the 80s and for more than a decade, I won gold medals for India. I peaked from 1984. Winning gold after gold and medal after medal at the Asian Games, Asian Championships and European Grands Prix was no small feat. It was a wonderful time for Indian athletics and, if I may say so, I was largely responsible for athletics being as popular as cricket in India at the time. Jakarta was the beginning of the golden period”.

Her greatest moment on the track and her greatest heartbreak came when she missed out on a bronze medal by 1/100th of a second in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

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