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As Asian Games looms PT Usha recalls Olympics nightmare

PT Usha

New Delhi, Auguts 17: Ahead of the ensuing 2018 Asian Games, India's sprint queen PT Usha recalled the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984, where she missed a medal in the 400M hurdles event by one-hundredth of a second, when she was forced to eat just rice porridge with pickle at the Games Village.

According to Usha, that food without any nutrition supplement had cost her the bronze.

"That definitely affected my performance in the last 35M of my event since I couldn't sustain the energy level," she said.

In that epic final, Usha and Romania's Cristieana Cojocaru crossed the finish line at almost the same time but the latter prevailed as she went for the decisive lunge.

Morocco's Nawal Moutawakal won the gold and Sweden's Ann Louise, the silver medal.

Usha regrets that in those days only the bare facilities were available to Indian athletes.

"We would jealously look at the athletes from other countries enjoying fabulous amenities; they had the latest equipment at their disposal. We wondered if we too would one day have access to such facilities," Usha is quoted as saying in an interview in the latest edition of the Equator Line magazine.

Usha then goes on to say that for days at the Games Village she was forced to eat rice porridge with pickle.

"I remember it - the pickle we in Kerala call 'kadu manga achar'. That and some sliced fruit. I was not accustomed to baked potatoes or half-boiled chicken with soya sauce and some other typical American food.

"No one had told us that in LA we would get only American food. I had no choice but to eat rice porridge without any nutrition supplement, and that definitely affected my performance in the last 35 metres of my event since I couldn't sustain the energy level," she says.

Usha blazed the track for 18 glorious years winning medals for India at various competitions. Now the ace sprinter runs a coaching academy - Usha School of Athletics.

About that unforgettable race of 1984, Usha recalled, "It was a perfect start for me. As planned, I tried to cross the first hurdles of 45M in 6.2 secs and kept the rhythm and maintained that level of speed and endurance... But in the last 35M, I couldn't sustain my energy at a consistent level."

Usha says she now wants to fulfil her dream of an Indian sprinter on the Olympic podium.

"Now my life is completely focused on that goal with the start of Usha School of Athletics. The school seeks to give the budding athletes things I was denied as an athlete. Eighteen girls are training here as boarders," Usha added.

800M runner Tintu Luka is one of the products of Usha School of Athletics. A medal hope at the 2018 Asian Games to be held in the Indonesia cities of Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2, Tintu pulled out of the quadrennial extravaganza after failing to recover form a heel injury.

The medal events in athletics in the 2018 Asiad begins on August 25.

(With inputs from PTI).

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Story first published: Friday, August 17, 2018, 14:00 [IST]
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