'Never thought that I would one day become IOA chief' - PT Usha
PT Usha has become the new IOA president following the conclusion of the IOA elections on Saturday. However, she admits that she had never dreamt of contesting for the top post, let alone ruling it.
"I never thought I would one day become IOA president," track and field legend PT Usha said after being elected as the first woman head of the Indian Olympic Association on Saturday. Usha, 58, was officially elected for the top post during the polls, heralding a new chapter in Indian sports administration.
"In my whole life, I had lived just 13 years without sports. Otherwise, I have been living with sports as an athlete, coach and administrator in different roles. I had never thought I would one day become the IOA chief or member of Parliament. This is all because of my sport," Usha said while addressing a press conference after her elevation to the top job.
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Usha took to athletics at the young age of nine while studying in class four at a school at Payyoli near her native village in the Kozhikode district of Kerala. What followed was a stellar career during which she won multiple Asian Games gold medals and achieved a fourth-place finish in the 1984 Olympics 400m hurdles final.
Usha announced her retirement in 1990, married, and returned to the tracks again in 1994 before quitting athletics in 2000. That initial nine years of her childhood and four years between 1990 and 1994 were the 13 years she was referring to. After 2000, she remained associated with athletics as a mentor to promising athletes at her academy -- Usha School of Athletics.
Usha is currently the chairperson of its junior selection committee. She has also served on national award committees of the government. "The national federations, the Athletes Commission and SOMs [Sportspersons of Outstanding Merit] pushed me to file nomination papers for the president's post. I am thankful to all of them," said Usha, the first Olympian to head the IOA.
"I was earlier not close to IOA and federation [AFI], but now I have come [become IOA chief] because all our sportspersons want to. There are also many sportspersons on the executive committee. I am pleased about that," added Usha. She said the IOA would work as a unit, and her organisation would be accessible to the federations, athletes and coaches.
"Me and my team, with collective effort, will do our best to work for the betterment of sports in the country. We will take the opinions of federations, athletes and coaches, and we will work together to bring more medals to our country. Only sportspersons know how tough it is to come from lower levels and win international medals. We will work for the athletes only," Usha substantiated.
Usha, fondly known as the 'Payyoli Express', is being seen as a candidate of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had nominated her as a Rajya Sabha member in July. She also became the first Olympian and international medallist to head the IOA in its 95-year-old history, adding another feather to her cap after dominating Indian and Asian athletics for two decades before retiring in 2000 with a bagful of international medals.
Usha is the first sportsperson to represent the country and become IOA chief since Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, who played a Test match in 1934. Singh was the third IOA president who held office from 1938 to 1960.
(With inputs from PTI)