Legendary sprinter P T Usha, who missed a podium spot in the 1984 Games, was among the millions who congratulated Neeraj Chopra on winning India’s first Olympic gold medal in athletics.
Sharing a photograph of her and Neeraj Chopra, PT Usha tweeted: ‘Realised my unfinished dream today after 37 years. Thank you my son @Neeraj_chopra1 #Tokyo2020.’
— P.T. USHA (@PTUshaOfficial) August 7, 2021
Ms. Usha had come agonisingly close to winning a medal in the 400 m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, earning the nickname ‘Payyoli Express’ for her incredible speed on the track.
Ms. Usha boosted expectations in the run-up to the games by winning silver medals in the 100 m and 200 m sprints at the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982. She established her maiden Asian record and won gold in the 400 m in the Asian Championships the following year.
She moved on to the 400 m hurdles after her achievement. She raised hopes by defeating US favourite Judy Brown in the semi-finals of the 1984 Olympics.
The 400 m hurdles event had to be redone when Debbie Flintoff of Australia, who started next to PT Usha, unintentionally started the race too soon.
Ms. Usha got off to a sluggish start in the race, but she quickly built up speed. The event ended in a photo finish, with Romania’s Cristieana Cojocaru edging out Ms. Usha by ‘a decisive head dip,’ according to the Olympics website.
She went on to win gold medals at the Asian Games and the Asian Championships after that. The Padma Shri winner currently operates a training centre for aspiring sportsmen in Kerala.
Despite losing out on a spot on the Olympic podium by a whisker, the legendary sprinter has inspired future generations of Indian female athletes who have gone to represent their country in the international arena.