P T Usha, The Golden Girl Of India

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Early Life  She was born on the 27th of June 1964 at Payyoli, a village located in District Payyoli of Kerala to E.P.M. Paithal and T.V. Lakshmi. Usha was affected by ill health in her early childhood days, but displayed the signs of a great Athlete right in her primary school days. 

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Beginning of Athletic Career  The Kerala State Government began a Sports Division for Women at Kannur in the year 1976, and 12 year old P.T. Usha was one among the 40 girls who began their training under O.M. Nambiar, the Coach at the division. She first came into limelight in the year 1979 when at National School Games, she won the individual championship. 

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International Athletics  Usha made her debut into the International Athletics when she participated in the Pakistan Open National Meet 1980 held at Karachi. She grabbed 4 Gold Medals at the Athletics Meet. In the year 1982, she took part in the World Junior Invitation Meet (which is now called World Junior Athletic Championship) held at Seoul. Usha managed to clinch Gold Medal in the 200m and Bronze Medal in the 100m race at the event. Afterwards, she started working intensely upon her performance and by the Los Angeles Olympics 1984 she had improved considerably. At the Los Angeles Olympics, Usha won the 400m Hurdles heats but unfortunately lost the Bronze Medal in 400m Hurdles Final Round by a very minute margin of 1/100 second in a Photo Finish. Anyhow, her achievement was still historical in Indian context as she became the first Indian Woman Athlete ever to have entered the Final Round at Olympic Games. She clocked the race in 55.42 seconds which still stands as a National Record for the event in India. 

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Further, in the year 1985 she participated at the Asian Track and Field Championship held at Jakarta, Indonesia and grabbed 5 Gold Medals and 1 Bronze Medal at the championship. At Seoul Asian Games 1986, Usha clinched four Gold Medals in the 200m, 400m, 400m Hurdles and 4x400m Relay races. Unfortunately, she got her heel injured before the Seoul Olympic Games 1988 and still ran for the nation in the same condition, although couldn’t fare well at the event.  Usha bounced back in the year 1989 at Asian Track Federation Meet held at Delhi, and clinched four Gold Medals and two Silver Medals at the meet. At this time, Usha wanted to declare her retirement but as a last innings she participated at Beijing Asian Games 1990 and despite not being fully prepared for the event, she grabbed three Silver Medals at the event. 

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Coach and former legendary runner P.T. Usha with athlete Tintu Luka.(World number eighth in 800 mts.)

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RELAY REUNION: MD Valsamma,Vandana Rao,Shiny Wilson and PT Usha after winning the gold at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games

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Awards & Honors  To commemorate her excellent services to the nation through her consistent and determined efforts towards the sport of Athletics, P.T. Usha was honored with the Arjuna Award in the year 1983 and Padma Shri award in the year 1985. Apart from it, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) named her the Sportsperson of the Century and the Sports Woman of the Millennium. Also, she was named the Greatest Woman Athlete at Jakarta Asian Athletic Meet 1985 and given the World Trophy for Best Athlete in the years 1985 and 1986.

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Set a national record at the state athletic meet at Kottayam, 1977. Captured the limelight as a junior athlete in the national interstate meet at Kollam, 1978.Participated in the Moscow Olympics, 1980. Became the first Indian woman to reach the final of an Olympic event. Became the youngest Indian sprinter, aged 16, to compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.Participated in the 1982 Delhi Asiad. Tried the 400m for the first time at the 1983 Asian Track and Field Meet (re-christened as the Asian championship) at Kuwait. She emerged successful in the one-lapper in an international arena for the first time. Achieved a record of 55.42 seconds at Los Angeles, the very first time the 400m hurdles was added to the women's athletics. This is the current Indian national record. Won 5 gold medals and 1 bronze in 1985, at the Jakarta Asian Athletic meet. Won 4 gold and 1 silver in 1986, Seoul Asian Games, claiming for herself the title of Asia's sprint queen. Took a hiatus from the sport following her marriage in 1991, returning in 1993. Participated in three Olympic Games, Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988. Member of 4 x 400 m relay squad in Atlanta 1996, but did not compete. Represented India in 4 x 100 metres relay together with Rachita Mistry, E. B. Shyla, and Saraswati Saha at the 1998 Asian Championships in Athletics where her team won the gold medal on way to setting the current national record of 44.43 s.

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