P. T. Usha is an Indian athlete, who retired from all competitive athletic events in 2000. She is also known as Payyoli Express, Udanpari, Asian Sprint Queen, Running Machine, and Golden Girl of India. She is also a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.
P. T. Usha aka Pilavullakandi Thekkeraparambil Usha was born on Saturday, 27 June 1964 (age 58 years; as of 2022) in Koothali, Kerala. She was brought up in Thikkoti, Kerala. Her zodiac sign is Cancer.
P. T. Usha’s childhood picture
From class 1 to class 7, she did her schooling at Trikottur AUP School in Kozhikode, Kerala. She then attended GVHSS (Sports) Kannur, Kerala. Later, she studied at Providence Women’s College, Kozhikode, Kerala.
P. T. Usha in her teens
Height (approx.): 5′ 7″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
P. T. Usha belongs to a Malayali family.
Parents & Siblings
Her father, E.P.M. Paithal, was a cloth merchant, and her mother T. V. Lakshmi, worked as a teacher.
P. T. Usha with her father
P. T. Usha and her mother
She has one brother and four sisters. P. T. Usha is the second child of her parents. Her brother’s name is Praveen, and two of her sisters are Shobha and Suma.
P. T. Usha and her brother Pradeep
P. T. Usha with her sisters and mother
Husband & Children
On 25 April 1991, she got married to V Srinivasan, an inspector at the Central Industrial Security Force, who is also a former national kabaddi player.
P. T. Usha’s wedding picture
The couple has a son together named Dr Vignesh V Ujjwal, who is working as a sports medicine expert.
P. T. Usha with her mother, husband, and son
P. T. Usha’s signature
Journey of Becoming the Golden Girl of India
Since childhood, P. T. Usha was interested in sports and always loved to run and jump over the fences while playing with her siblings. While she was in school, her PT teacher asked her to participate in the school’s athletic competition.
The school ground where P. T. Usha used to practice in her childhood
She won the race competition against her senior from class 7, who was also a sub-district champion. She then performed in various athletic competitions in her school.
P. T. Usha (standing in the middle) on winning an athletic competition in her teens
In 1976, she was spotted by the Indian athletics coach O. M. Nambiar, who decided to train Usha professionally. In an interview, while sharing the memories, with Usha, Nambiar said,
I first saw Usha in 1976 during the Payyoli school annual sports meet where I was the guest to distribute the prize. What impressed me at first sight about Usha was her lean shape and fast walking style. I knew she could become a very good sprinter. She was different from others in the sports school and was very punctual. I lived near her house and therefore I had lots of time to train her. The results were quick.”
An old picture of P. T. Usha with her coach O. M. Nambiar
In the same year, the Kerala State Government started a sports school for women in Kannur, Kerala. Usha joined the school and started her professional training in athletics under her coach O. M. Nambiar. At that time, she was in class 8 and was among the first batch of the school. Considering her performance in athletics, the Kerala Government then awarded her a scholarship of Rs 250 pm. She came into the limelight with the National School Games (1979) in which she won the individual championship. In 1980, she participated in her first international tournament Pakistan Open National Meet at Karachi and bagged 4 gold medals for India. In 1982, she participated in World Junior Invitation Meet (now World Junior Athletics Championship) held in Seoul and won a gold medal in 200m and a bronze medal in 100m event.
P. T. Usha’s old photo from one of her track events
In 1984, she represented India at the Los Angeles Olympics. It was only 1/100th of a second by which she lost the 400 metres hurdle race for a bronze medal. The women’s 400m hurdle race was introduced for the first time at the Los Angeles Olympics (1984). The results were so close that even the announcer at the event said that P. T. Usha finished third. However, he later corrected himself and said that Usha finished fourth and missed by 1/100th of a second. Usha was disheartened after the results. She then received a message from the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, who motivated her to perform better. The message reads,
Usha, my daughter, you did very well for the country. Don’t worry, try harder next time, we are all with you.”
An old photo of P. T. Usha with Indira Gandhi
In an interview, while talking about not winning a medal in Olympics, Usha said,
I never wanted to be an Olympian. All I wanted was to keep breaking my own record. I never competed to defeat anybody.”
During an interview, when her coach Nambiar was asked about Usha’s struggles, he said,
At the 1978 Quilon nationals, she won five medals. That was the beginning and then there was no looking back. I was convinced of Usha’s potential. As she moved from school to college, my training for Usha continued making her win 14 out of the 15 gold medals in the Kerala state college sports meet. I always wanted her to move up the ladder of success because I knew she was a brilliant athlete. Therefore, from day one, my training techniques for her were accordingly. Whenever she was out of town in coaching camps and sports meets across the country, I had to virtually look her after like a father. I cooked food for her, especially when we were abroad. I wanted to ensure that she should not lose out due to lack of continuous training. I do not have any regrets that she could not win the prized medal in the Los Angeles Olympics. She almost won the medal. That was our saddest and glorious moment. I think she lost out because the race was called for a second start. She was moving ahead so well in the first start that, if not for the restart.”
She continued participating in various national and international athletic competitions like Seoul Asian Games, Seoul Olympics, and Beijing Asian Games.
P. T. Usha in one of her athletics event
In 1981, she was given a job as an assistant at the Indian Railways on sports quota. In 1992, post-pregnancy, she decided to take retirement from the sport, and it was her husband, who motivated her to continue participating in the sport.
An old photo of P. T. Usha with her son Vignesh
She then participated in various championships and won many medals for India. During an interview, she shared the struggles she faced in making a comeback in athletics. She said,
When I started again, nobody helped me. They tried to pull me down. The Indian altitude was — Usha is finished. When I went to practise here, people teased me, and they laughed. So I went to Patiala to train. There I found it much better. I had to lose a lot of weight — and I did.”
Her all-time personal bests are:
- 100 m: 11.39 (Jakarta 1985)
- 200 m: 23.05 (Lucknow 1999)
- 400 m: 51.61 (Canberra 1985)
- 400 m hurdles: 55.42 NR (Los Angeles 1984)
In 2000, she retired from all competitive athletic events and promised that she would open a school in Kerala which would provide a platform for budding athletes.
Usha School of Athletics
After almost two years of her retirement, she started her athletics training school Usha School of Athletics in Kerala. In an interview, while talking about her school, she said,
After many years of experience in athletics, I am convinced that what we lack in India is not talent, but basic, modern and scientific facilities. If we train our young Indian sports talents nothing, not even Olympic medals is unachievable. Everyone thinks that bagging an Olympic medal is a difficult task. It is not. I would have certainly made it to the Los Angeles Olympics if I had a little more exposure in the 400m hurdles. Considering my limited exposure, I did well as I had participated only in two races before I went to Los Angeles. It was my lack of experience in the 400m hurdles that cost me the gold medal. If India goes for a real, systematic and scientific approach, I am sure my country has a great athletic future.”
P. T. Usha while practicing with her students
Member of the Rajya Sabha
On 6 July 2022, P. T. Usha was nominated to the Upper House by the former President of India Ram Nath Kovind. On 20 July 2022, she took an oath in Hindi as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Case Filed Against Her for Cheating and Dishonesty
In 2021, a case was filed by the Kozhikode Police in Kerala against P. T. Usha and six other members of a construction company under IPC Section 420 (cheating and dishonesty). The complaint was filed in the Vellayil Police Station by the former Indian athlete Jemma Joseph for cheating her. The complaint was then forwarded to the Kozhikode Police Chief AV George. Jemma had paid for the construction of her house, but it was not completed within the given time. Later, the case was forwarded to the Kerala Real Estate Regulatory Authority. While filing the complaint, Jemma said,
I paid Rs 46 lakh to Usha for an apartment and was promised that the construction will be completed within the given time. However, the apartment was not ready nor did the construction company was ready to give back the money. When I confronted the builders, the firm said PT Usha was accountable for paying back the sum but the former national athlete did not give back the money.”
- 1978: National Inter-State Meet held in Kollam, Kerala in 100 metres event
- 1979: XXV National Games in Hyderabad in 100 metres event
- 1983: Asian Championship held in Kuwait City, Kuwait in 400 metres event
- 1985: Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 100 metres event
- 1985: Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 200 metres event
P. T. Usha at the 1985 Jakarta Asian Championship
- 1985: Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 400 metres event
- 1985: Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 400 metres hurdles event
- 1985: Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 4×400 metres relay event
- 1986: Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea in 200 metres event
- 1986: Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea in 400 metres event
- 1986: Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea in 400 metres hurdles event
- 1986: Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea in 4×400 metres relay event
- 1987: Asian Championship held in Singapore in 400 metres event
- 1987: Asian Championship held in Singapore in 400 metres hurdles event
- 1987: Asian Championship held in Singapore in 4×400 metres relay event
- 1989: Asian Championship held in New Delhi, India in 100 metres event
- 1989: Asian Championship held in New Delhi, India in 200 metres event
- 1989: Asian Championship held in New Delhi, India in 400 metres hurdles event
- 1989: Asian Championship held in New Delhi, India in 4×400 metres relay event
- 1998: Asian Championship in Fukuoka, Japan in 4×100 metres relay event
- 1982: Asian Games held in New Delhi, India in 100 metres event
- 1982: Asian Games held in New Delhi, India in 200 metres event
- 1983: Asian Championship held in Kuwait City, Kuwait in 200 metres event
- 1986: Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea in 100 metres event
- 1987: Asian Championship held in Singapore in 100 metres event
- 1987: Asian Championship held in Singapore in 4×100 metres relay event
- 1989: Asian Championship held in New Delhi, India in 100 metres event
P. T. Usha with her Asian Championship 1989 trophy
- 1989: Asian Championship held in New Delhi, India in 4×100 metres relay event
- 1990: Asian Games held in Beijing, China in 400 metres event
- 1990: Asian Games held in Beijing, China in 4×100 metres relay event
- 1990: Asian Games held in Beijing, China in 4×400 metres relay event
- 1994: Asian Games held in Hiroshima, Japan in 4×100 metres relay event
- 1998: Asian Championship in Fukuoka, Japan in 4×100 metres relay event
- 1985: Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 4×100 metres relay event
- 1998: Asian Championship in Fukuoka, Japan in 200 metres event
- 1998: Asian Championship in Fukuoka, Japan in 400 metres event
P. T. Usha at her home where a wall is dedicated to her awards and trophies
Other Notable Events
- 1980: Finished 5th in the Olympic Games held in Moscow, Russia in 100 metres event
P. T. Usha in Moscow (1980)
- 1984: Finished 7th in the Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, USA in 4×100 metres hurdles event
- 1985: Finished 5th in the World Cup held in Canberra, Australia in 400 metres hurdles event
- 1985: Finished 8th in the World Cup held in Canberra, Australia in 4×100 metres event
- 1988: Finished 7th in the Olympic Games held in Seoul, South Korea in 400 metres hurdles event
Note: She has won many more medals at various national and international events.
- 1984: 55.42 seconds record in 400 metres hurdles event in Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, USA
- 1985: 11.64 seconds record in 100 metres event in Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia
- 1985: 23.05 seconds record in 200 metres event in Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia
- 1985: 52.62 seconds in 400 metres event in Asian Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia
- 1985: 51.61 record in 400 metres event in World Cup held in Canberra, Australia
Asian Games Records
- 1986: 23.44 seconds record in 200 metres event in Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea
- 1986: 52.16 seconds in 400 metres in Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea
- 1986: 56.06 seconds in 400 metres hurdles in Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea
- 1986: 3:34.58 time record in 4×400 metres relay event in Asian Games held in Seoul, South Korea
- 1981: 11.8 seconds in the 100 metres and 24.6 seconds in the 200 metres events in the senior inter-state meet in Bangalore
- 1983: 23.9 seconds in 200 metres event in Open National Championships in Jamshedpur
- 1983: 53.6 seconds in 400 metres event in Open National Championships in Jamshedpur
- 1998: 44.43 seconds record in 4 x 100 metres relay event in Asian Championship held in Fukuoka, Japan
Awards & Honours
- 1984: Arjuna Award
P. T. Usha being honoured with the Arjuna Award
- 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1989: Best Athlete of Asia Award
- 1984 and 1986: World Trophy for The Best Athlete of Asia
- 1984, 1985, 1989 and 1990: Marshal Tito Award for The Best Railway Sportsperson in the Indian Railways
- 1986: Adidas Golden Shoe award for Best Athlete at the 1986 Seoul Olympics
An old photo of P. T. Usha while receiving the Golden Show Award 1986
- 2000: Best Sportswoman of the Century by the Indian Olympic Association
- 2019: IAAF Veteran Pin Award
- 2000: Honorary doctorate (D.Litt.) conferred by Kannur University
- 2017: Honorary doctorate (D.Sc.) conferred by IIT Kanpur
- 2018: Honorary doctorate (D.Litt.) conferred by University of Calicut
- 2022: 6th Honorary Doctorate degree by Vinayaka Missions Research Foundation
P. T. Usha receiving honorary doctorate degree by Vinayaka Missions Research Foundation
- P. T. Usha was born into a poor family, and in childhood, she fell ill after which she became very weak.
- In the initial years of her career, her father used to accompany her during her training sessions. In an interview, while remembering those days, she said,
My father used to come to the ground where I used to practice. He used to bring a stick to the field. Because when I used to go for a run in the early hours, many dogs used to come there. Sometimes she used to run on a dusty road along the railway line and used to race with the passing vehicles. PT Usha also loved running on the seashore. I loved to train by the sea. There were a variety of exercises that could be done. There was no side-to-side. You could also do uphill running and run downhill. As you wish.”
An old photo of P. T. Usha while practicing with her coach
- P. T. Usha loves watching Hindi and Malayalam films and listening to songs.
- She follows a non-vegetarian diet.
- In 1987, she co-authored her autobiography titled ‘Golden Girl: The Autobiography of P. T. Usha’ along with the Indian author Lokesh Sharma.
Golden Girl- The Autobiography of P. T. Usha
- During an interview, she talked about losing a medal at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984. She said,
That food without any nutrition supplement had cost her the bronze. That definitely affected my performance in the last 35 metres of my event since I couldn’t sustain the energy level. We would jealously look at the athletes from other countries enjoying fabulous amenities; they had the latest equipment at their disposal. We wondered if we too would one day have access to such facilities.”
- A road is named after her as P. T. Usha Road in Kozhikode, Kerala.
P. T. Usha road
- In an interview, while talking about the meaning of her name ‘Pilavullakandi Thekkeraparambil Usha.’ She said,
Pilaullakandi means that there was a tree in the compound of my house which was not anywhere in the whole village. And Thekkeparambil means that my house was in the south direction of the tree which is there. That’s why I got the name PT Usha.”
- She is an avid animal lover and has a few pet dogs.
P. T. Usha with her pet dogs
- She was once gifted a Standard 2000 car by the government of Kerala for her outstanding performance in athletics.
P. T. Usha with her car
- In 1995, she had an injury in her knee after which she decided to take retirement from sports. In an interview, while talking about the same, she said,
Actually, since I did well in the last season I wanted to run in Asian track and field meet and the Sydney Olympics. I wanted to be in Asian track and field team and planned to announce my retirement after that meet. But now, after all the practice and competition, my knee is giving trouble. It got injured in 1995 and was operated upon once. I was under treatment, but I need at least 20 to 30 days for speed work, and three months more to get back into full form. The Asian track and field meet is starting on August 28, by which time I won’t be fully fit. After that there is no international meet, as the next one is only in 2002. I don’t want to continue till then.”
- In 2017, Usha said that the Indian athlete PU Chitra was excluded from the team for the World Championship for not qualifying for the mark set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). In an interview, she said,
The team was picked by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). I was not a part of the selection committee and I attended the meeting only as an observer. Even though Chitra had won the 1,500m gold in the recent Asian Athletics Championships, the AFI has the discretion to decide whether to include her or not in the squad.”
- She has been appointed as a member of the Board of Advisors of India’s International Movement to Unite Nations, Mumbai for the past few years. She is also appointed as the committee head of the Indian Talent organization at the National Level Indian Talent Olympiad.
- In 2020, she was nominated as the Dean, Faculty of Sports Science & Physical Education of Kannur University.
- Various books have been published on her such as ‘P.T. Usha, the Pride of India’ by Konark Publishers and ‘P.T. Usha’ by Kumkum Khanna.
P.T. Usha by Kumkum Khanna
- She has been featured on the cover page of various magazines.
P. T. Usha featured on a magazine cover
- She has appeared in a few TV commercials for brands like Kanan Devan Tea and Raidco Curry Powder.
- She has been an inspiration for many Indian sportswomen like P. V. Sindhu and Dutee Chand.
An old photo of P. T. Usha with PV Sindhu