With 11 medals to her name, Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha, or simply PT Usha, is the most decorated Indian athlete in Asian Games history. With a career spanning over two decades, Usha dominated the multi-sport event like no other.
What is PT Usha’s nickname?
Nicknamed the Payyoli Express, Usha has taken part in five Asiads and has won at least one medal in four of them. Her shining performance at the Games saw her deemed the poster girl of Indian athletics in the 1980s.
List of PT Usha’s medals in the Asian Games:
Asian Games 1982-
She made her Asian Games debut in the 1982 edition. The Games had returned to India after thirty years as New Delhi hosted it for the second time, making it a landmark event for India.
Two years before, Usha made her debut at the Olympics in Moscow as a 16-year-old, making it an even bigger deal for her to perform in front of the home crowd.
The Kerala athlete lived up to expectations as she won silver in the 100m sprint, clocking 11.95, behind the Philippines’ Lydia de Vega, who timed 11.76. She won yet another silver in the 200m with a time of 24.32.
Asian Games 1986-
Usha was in good form ahead of the 1986 Asian Games, having won gold in all her individual events at the 1985 Asian Athletics Championships.
She continued the momentum at the Asiad in Seoul, South Korea, recording the highest individual medal tally in track and field, winning four golds and one silver.
The gold rush was despite a hectic schedule that saw her run three races within a two-hour gap. Setting Asian Games records in all the events she won gold in, which included the 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, and 4x400m relay, the Payyoli Express showed no signs of stopping.
However, the Indian had to be content with silver as Lydia retained her 100m sprint title.
Asian Games 1990 –
Between the 1986 and 1990 Asian Games, Usha faced several highs and lows. Injuring her ankle at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, made it impossible for her to compete in the finals.
However, she came back at the 1989 Asian Championships to win four gold and two silver medals, after which she decided to retire.
In a turn of events, Usha returned to the track for the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, China.
Despite the injuries and her age, Usha managed to win three silver medals in 400m, 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay.
Asian Games 1994 -
At the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, Usha was already a well reputed track and field athlete. The Indian added another silver medal to her kitty in the 4x400m relay with GV Dhanalakshmi, Shiny Wilson, and Kutty Saramma to sign off as the most illustrious Asian Games athlete for India.
While she did compete in the 1998 edition, PT Usha could not win a medal, finishing fourth in the 4x400m relay and sixth in the 200m sprint.
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