One of India’s most iconic athletes and a queen of track and field, P.T. Usha celebrates her 56th birthday on June 27, 2020 (Saturday). Usha was born to EPM Paithal and TV Lakshmi in 1964 as Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha. Her family were poor and lived in a small village of Payyoli in Kozhikode, Kerala. P.T. Usha was aspired to become a sprinter but poverty and ill health engulfed her dreams and almost swept it off. But her fate changed in 1976 when she was awarded a Rs 250 scholarship by the Kerala State government which had just started a women’s sports division.

Usha was first noticed by athletics coach OM Nambiar at a sports award ceremony. He was impressed by the youngster’s spirit and started coaching her. Ombiar remained Usha’s coach for her entire career and helped to several achievements, the biggest of them being a fourth-place finish in 400m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Had she clinched a bronze, it would have been India’s first Olympic medal in Track and Field but Usha came fourth and missed out on a medal by 1/100th of a second. As she turns 56, take a look at some lesser-known and interesting facts about P.T. Usha.

  • Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, popularly known as P.T. Usha was born at the Payyoli town in Kozhikode, Kerala
  • PT Usha is called the ‘queen of Indian track and field’ and is also nicknamed “Payyoli Express” for her achievements in sport
  • At 14, PT Usha won four gold medals in an inter-state junior meet after participating in 100 metres sprint. 60m hurdles, high jump and 200m race.
  • Usha, aged 16, was the youngest sprinter to compete at the 1980 Moscow Olympics
  • PT Usha won silver medals in 100m and 200m at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi
  • She also won a gold medal in 400m race at the 1981 Asian Track and Field Championship in Kuwait
  • Usha is the first Indian to reach the final of an Olympic track event
  • PT Usha finished fourth in 400m race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics missing out on a bronze medal by 1/100th seconds
  • Usha won the Adidas Golden Shoe award for best athlete at the 1986 Seoul Olympics
  • PT Usha holds the national record for 400m hurdles with a timing of 55.42 seconds achieved at 1984 Olympics
  • She created a new record by winning five gold medals at the 1985 Asian Championships, most gold medals won by a female athlete at a single meet
  • In 1984, PT Usha was conferred with the Arjuna and Padma Shri for her contribution and achievements in the field of sport
  • A biopic film on PT Usha is set to be made by director Revathy S Varmah

Her legacy remains unmatched. P.T. Usha bid adieu to Track and Field with a record haul of 101 international medals. Her greatest achievement will, however, always be becoming India’s first-ever sportswoman to enter an Olympic event final. At present, P.T. Usha runs a non-profit athletic school that trains future athletes. Happy Birthday Queen!

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 27, 2020 08:15 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website