PT Usha is an icon for women athletes. Without the shadow of a doubt, she is one of India’s greatest athletes to have graced the sport. Her blistering pace at the track never ceases to amaze us during her stint as a prolific runner. That’s why she is rightfully called the ‘Queen of Indian Track and Field’. She is referred to as ‘Payyoli Express’.
The legendary athlete’s on-field contributions are well known as she has won 101 International medals so far. She made the entire nation proud by chipping in with gold medals which is the most by any female athlete in the single track event – 100, 200, and 400-meter sprints, the 400-meter hurdles, and the 4 x 400-meter relay at the 1985 Asian Track and Field Championship in Indonesia.
PT Usha created iconic history by becoming the first ever Indian women to reach the finals of an Olympic event before she won the Semi-Finals in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Payyoli Express won the Golden Shoe award for the best athlete in the 1986 Seoul Asiad. She was rightly honoured with Padma Shri and the Arjuna award in the year 1985.
USHA SCHOOL OF ATHLETICS
After calling it quits from athletics, P.T. Usha came up with an initiative of establishing ‘Usha School of Athletics’ in 2002. She started this school because she wants to train young athletes with an intention of winning Olympic Medals for India. She offers free training, shelter and food for the budding young talents.
She believes that India has a great future for ‘athletics’. She has taken to crowdfunding and raised over a whopping Rs 20 lakhs in a bid to train young talents at her school in the hope of turning them into potential contenders for Asiad and Olympics. She has to raise a sum of Rs 27 lakh for 16 athletes. The crowdfunding campaign has ended on the website ‘Milaap’ but contributions are still welcome.
P.T. Usha currently trains 16 students who live in the residential campus and it takes anywhere between Rs 3-6 lakhs per year to train an athlete. The students sweat it out day in day out regularly. The day sets off in the early morning at 5:30 AM and the students will assemble at the running ground by 6:15 AM.
Their morning court session lasts 3 hours till about 9:30 AM and after that, the students attend school till 4:30 PM. Then in the evening, training session starts from 4:30 PM to 6 PM. “Athletics is our focus, but our kids also pursue a formal education at nearby schools and colleges. Some of them scored above 90%,” Usha was quoted as saying by Times of India.
“In the past, celebrities like Mohandas Pai and Kumari Shibulal came forward to sponsor five to six athletes each; Sudha Murthy was kind enough to give us Rs 20 lakh once. Our mud track was donated by the state government and the synthetic one by the Centre. Our hostels were built by Sobha Developers,” Usha said.