Against all hurdles
P T Usha
Flying Rani, Payyoli Express, Golden Girl... the epithets are as numerous as the 102 international medals and 1,000 plus awards she has won at national & state level meets. Humble beginnings, financial shortcomings, inadequate facilities... the odds against her have been as daunting as the competition which she has outpaced on the track.But Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha is not just a winner in the world of athletics. This sporting spirit has triumphed in lifes race, taking everything from the dejection of losing out on an Olympic medal to allegations of drug use in her stride. Vinod Nair takes a trip through time with an achiever who has never settled for the position of also ran.
My life started with struggle: My earliest memories are those of jumping over fences as a child. But attempting the extraordinary was, perhaps, a natural offshoot of what was otherwise an ordinary childhood. Born to EPM Paithel and TV Lekshmi at Koothadi in Kozhikode on June 27, 1964, I grew up in Payyoli as the second of six children. My father ran a small cloth store and we were never financially secure. To top it all, one disease or the other kept plaguing my health.I was first noticed at school: One day, while I was in class IV, our drill master, Mr Balakrishnan, asked me to run with a student of class VII who was the school champion.I had no experience of running in a race. I just ran as fast as I could and came in first! I just couldnt believe that I had outrun the school champion. And neither could onlookers.I was noticed. My parents knew nothing about athletics: Forget about sports as a profession, even participating in races was not common among girls in those days.