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1984 Olympics: The year that set the stage for Indian women athletes
The year 1984 saw India sprinting to unprecedented heights in athletic sports, giving headway to a rousing meticulous affair.
As the Olympics that year came to a close, the giant TV screens blaring non-stop headlines reflected an unpredicted paroxysm of national pride. The reason? The Indian contingent seemed to produce a powerhouse of emerging talent, and this time outside cricket, a game followed with almost religious fervor in India, the country leaped with enthusiasm at women's participation in athletics. A series of world-class performances by women athletes helped create a new generation of national icons. The year 1984 saw India sprinting to unprecedented heights in athletic sports, giving headway to a rousing meticulous affair. But the euphoria around cricket captain Kapil Dev holding aloft the World Cup trophy after India steered a triumphant ridge overshadowed a spree of achievement by the country's less-glamorous sportspersons. For a 20-year-old, making a grandeur appearance at the Olympics was no easy feat, until she became no stranger to history. And 35 years later, she continues to be one of India's glittering prospects in the athletic ecosystem. That's PT Usha, more eminently addressed as the 'Queen of Indian Track and Field’. PT Usha showed India that there are sports other than cricket and Indian sportsmen have the potential to bring glory to the country. (Source: Facebook) Economic strain stampeded young Usha during the initial years of her training, but the sprinter chose to shine through. She went to the Olympics armed with the confidence of edging past Cristieana Cojocaru of Romania. Then followed a heartbreak. A fraction of a second costed India a place on the podium. The golden sprinter kept the entire nation on the edge of its seats until being shunted to the sidelines for missing out on the bronze in the 400m hurdles by 1/100th of a second. India's medal hopes suffered a staggering blow, but it was PT Usha who lifted India's otherwise drab spirits and helped women athletes set newer trends in the nation's sporting scenario. From clawing her way out of the throes of a severe financial crisis at home to becoming a sporting legend, Usha maintained an unassailable lead back then. PT Usha is the sporting legend that inspired many, especially women. (Source: Facebook) The Indian women's 4x400 metre relay team of PT Usha, Shiny Abraham, MD Valsamma and Vandana Rao set an Asian record of 3:32.49 seconds after they finished last among the seven teams in the final. Their successes have won them the adulation of millions and have turned a spotlight on the higher barriers, on and off the field. For Usha, who electrified India barely two years ago with a record-breaking leap as she bagged silver at the 1982 Asian Games in the 100m and 200m event, Los Angeles remained a far-flung dream. Decades passed by, as the nation recollects the 1984 event, with an invariable tinge of sadness. She guided her athletic career to glory once again in the year 1986 at the Seoul Asian Games when she notched four gold medals and one silver medal. Despite failing to make a mark at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the nation remembers her as the youngest Indian sprinter to compete in an Olympic event at a tender age of 16. The progress that Indian women athletes have climbed to in the past few decades speaks volumes of the growing sporting culture in India. And one might promptly recollect the new track sensation Hima and her recent medal feat. At 19, the young sprinter has already set out on an unflagging journey of sheer excellence. Since the Usha days, young women like Hima have been conquering athletic tournaments around the world. The probability of women outshining men in Indian athletics has seen an unprecedented rise, and one is, perhaps, left to surrender to a state of jubilation at this juncture.