Pune: PT Usha dominated athletics in India more than a decade back, but even today an entire generation of young athletes who may have never seen her exploits from the 1980s, want to be just like her. After years of doing the country proud, the athlete is now turning her attention to grooming the next PT Usha. The athletics legend recently visited Pune on a talent scouting mission. The 40-year-old runs a sports academy in Kerala and is hunting for aspiring athletes to groom them to international standards. The Payyoli Express, as she was known in her heydays, shortlisted 35 girls from a crowd of 350, all aged between 10 and 16 years. Winning record PT Usha made her international debut at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, but shot into the limelight during the 1982 Asiad in New Delhi. She dominated Asian athletics through the mid eighties winning five Golds, a bronze in the Asian Track and Field Meet in Jakarta in 1985, and then following that up with a four gold and one silver medal haul at the 1986 Asiad. But her finest, and perhaps saddest hour came at the 1984 Olympics, when she became the first Indian woman to reach the finals of a track event. Her exploits may not be known in detail to this generation of athletes, but that hasn't dimmed their admiration for her. The talent search is also being conducted in Pune's neighbouring cities of Nagpur, Nasik and Kolhapur. And with one of Asia's finest athletes watching over them, this might just be the cream of Indian athletics posing for a picture.
Topics : Athletics