Former India sprinter PT Usha will soon start identifying and training gifted athletes in Gujarat in response to a request from Prime Minister Narendra Modi .
The Modi government has put major emphasis on sports and on developing sporting infrastructure. Therefore, Usha, who runs the Usha School of Kozhikode in Kerala, was roped in to handpick talented athletes who could be admitted to the school at an early age.
Usha, nicknamed Payyoli Express, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sports Authority of Gujarat in November and start training aspiring athletes.
"Since I was busy with the Commonwealth Games and Asiad, I couldn't do much. Now, I will be going there next month to help them," Usha was quoted as saying in the Hindustan Times. According to the English daily, the 50-year-old was impressed with the sporting facilities in Ahmedabad and Vadodara.
There will be a trial for selection in the bigger cities in Gujarat between November 9 and 15, where about 30 children in the age group of 11-14 will make the cut. Usha could be the perfect foil to Modi's dream to see India doing well in international athletic events.
Traditionally, Indian contingents have had to depend on hockey and - more recently - shooting, boxing, wrestling and badminton to boost the medal tally at major international events like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. But with Usha's expertise and the full might of the Indian government at her disposal, India can actually look at even better numbers.
Since establishing her school in 2002, Usha has had to grapple with severe financial crunch but still went on to nurture several talented athletes. Her proudest achievement would have been to see Tintu Luka bag a silver medal in the 800-m race at the Incheon Games. Usha would now hope that with the central government backing her, money woes to sustain her school would be a thing of the past.