Milkha would have got Olympic medals if he had been running now, says P.T. Usha

P.T. Usha considers Milkha Singh's Rome run as her favourite Indian performance.

File picture of Milkha Singh and P.T. Usha.   -  The Hindu

The starting block once flew off when Milkha Singh took off for a race. He turned and looked at the man who had fixed the blocks in anger. Though the others had taken a big lead, Milkha still managed to win the race.

P.T. Usha narrated this as one of the many stories her coach O.M. Nambiar had told when she was a 13-year-old at Kerala's Kannur Sports Division. “There were so many stories about Milkha so I was very keen to meet him,” Usha told Sportstar from Patiala, ahead of Monday’s Indian Grand Prix-4, on Saturday.

READ: 'Colossal sportsperson': Indians pay tribute to Milkha Singh

But when they finally met, language was a bit of a barrier.

“We had gone to Korea for the 1982 World junior invitation meet, he as the chef de mission and I as an athlete. I did not understand much because I did not know Hindi well,” said Usha.

Full of life

But as years went by, Usha found Milkha very warm and witty, full of life and laughter.

“If Milkha had been running now, he would be getting us medals at the Olympics and World championships. He was so talented, the time that he set in 1960 stood as a national record for nearly four decades.

“For me, my favourite Indian performance is Milkha running that 400m at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Even though many had broken his record, I still consider it as the best Indian performance considering the facilities our current athletes have.”

Usha, like Milkha, had felt the pain of narrowly missing an Olympic medal, at 1984 in Los Angeles where she finished fourth in the 400m hurdles.

READ: Milkha Singh, a symbol of toil and struggle


India’s first Commonwealth Games athletics champion in 1958, Milkha was often keen to walk down memory lane.

“We had gone to Melbourne when India was trying to bring home the 2010 Commonwealth Games. He took me to the stadium where he had run his first Olympics in 1956.

“He was so excited. There were photos of the Olympics on display there. He was going through them very closely, checking whether he was there in any of them.”

Milkha had an eventful life, he was ready to face death bravely too.

“When I met him three years ago, he said ‘I’m ready to die, ready to say good bye. I have given my medals and spikes to the museum’,” revealed Usha. “I was stunned when I heard that.”

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