I started my own academy to achieve my Olympic dream: PT Usha
02nd December 2018, 03:07 Hrs
BASIL SYLVESTER PINTO
Delighted to be in Goa after a long time, the ‘Golden Girl’ of Indian Sport, PT Usha, speaking at ‘Reels on Heels 2018’ presented by Ravindra Bhavan, Margao and Saxtti films at Ravindra Bhavan on Saturday, revealed that she last visited the State in the 1980s. She stated that she was initially not keen to attend the Goa event thinking it was just like any other film festival, but when she learnt that it was a film festival on sports, she was more than just happy to be invited by the festival organizers.
Speaking on the occasion, the track and field sprint queen of the country was proud to admit that she had won a total of 103 international medals, with more than 800 other medals at the national level in her illustrious career.
This coming in the absence of any facilities that athletes in the country get to see and utilize today. “I had seen a synthetic track for the first time when I went to Moscow to participate, but now, every State (in India) has synthetic tracks,” the role-model athlete divulged to a gathering comprising largely of enthusiastic school-going delegates.
“In my sports life, I could achieve everything except an Olympic medal,” she added with a tinge of regret. And this unrealized dream has led her to keep her feet moving to realize her quest for an Olympic medal through her protegees at her athletic Academy in Kerala even after having retired as a professional athlete. The inspirational, sprightly 54-year old athlete spoke to The Goan in an exclusive interview ahead of the event. Following are the excerpts:
TG: How do you stay connected to the game?
PT Usha: I have my own Academy in Kerala. We have started it in 2002 (for the girls). Our athletes have started doing well. We have eight international athletes already, two Olympians and 68 international medals.
Indu has won the Asian medal and came 11th in the London Olympics.
Krishna Mathew, after me, is the
youngest to finish in the Olympics.
She is now 19 and is the Asian Junior Champion in 400 metres and Youth Champion in 400 metres. My academy named Usha School of Athletics has only 20 athletes (girls). They are in the age group of 12-28, with Indu being
28. We have a less number in
our school as we are meeting their expenses.
For their academics, they attend the nearby school.
TG: How has athletics changed
PT Usha: For me, athletics is everything. I started my athletic career at the age of 13. Until now, I am still with the sport. I cannot think of doing anything outside athletics. My full life has been through athletics. That is why even after my active athletic career, I am still in the field to give back something to the
TG: Tell us about the earliest international event you participated in and how it helped you moving forward in your career?
PT Usha: I had participated in the Karachi Invitational Meet and won four gold medals. I was the youngest participant in the meet. It was a very good experience. Everything was new to me. I had seen a big stadium for the first time. I had seen a synthetic track there and wore synthetic spikes from then. It was a good competitive experience. It gave me a lot of confidence for the events to follow.
TG: In the 1984 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles, you missed out on
a bronze in the 400m hurdles by 1/100th of a second. Talk us through
PT Usha: To win an Olympic medal, athletes used to participate in 15-20 races in Europe and then take part in the Olympics. In my case, it was totally different. In my life, back then, I had ran 400 m hurdles only twice in India and the third was at the pre-Olympics in Ingle wood, USA (1984) where I won the gold. Before going for the (Summer) Olympics at Los Angeles, I ran only three 400 m hurdles. It was because of lack of exposure that I lost out on a medal. Else, I could have dipped my shoulder ahead and won the medal (bronze).
TG: In the 1986 Seoul Asian Games, you won four gold medals (200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, 4x400m relay). Would you consider it your best international meet effort?
PT Usha: In the 1985 Asian Championship (Jakarta), I had secured five gold and one bronze. In the 1986 Seoul Asian Games, I had won four gold and two silver which I consider important. Our Indian team had gone for this 1986 event, with a big contingent and were not getting medals. India was in the 14th position. In total, they got five fold medals, of which four were mine and the other was in wrestling. India were in 14th position, and came to 4th with my efforts. It was a proud moment for me as I had done this for my country.
TG: How do you intend to improve the Indian athletic scene?
PT Usha: I am doing my best for the country. My ultimate aim is to achieve an Olympic medal for my country and that is why I started an academy.
TG: How much has athletics changed in the country since you
ended your career?
PT Usha: During our time, nothing was there. Now, everything is there. Infrastructural facilities has improved, exposure is there as well. There is the physio, masseur too. They are bringing in foreign coaches. There have been a lot of changes. But if our performances was to be taken into account, it was very good.
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