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Legendary sprinter PT Usha recalls winning first 100m gold in the re-run debut race

The face of KFC'S latest 'Express Pick-Up' campaign recollects how crowd support came to her rescue during her first 100m race in the 1977 National Games in Thiruvananthapuram.

Indian legendary sprinter PT Usha (Source: DNA)

Indian legendary sprinter PT Usha (Source: DNA)



Updated: 1 Dec 2021 5:40 PM GMT

Legendary sprinter PT Usha's debut 100m race was nothing sort of spectacular as she was erroneously disqualified for 'false start' before a crowd intervention led to a re-run and eventually winning gold.

Walking down the memory lane, 'Payyoli Express' Usha told PTI in an exclusive interview how crowd support came to her rescue during her first 100m race in the 1977 National Games in Thiruvananthapuram. She was initially thrown out of the race for a 'false start' committed by her rivals.

"When I started, (in my) first Nationals in Trivandrum in 1977, I was in U-14 section. I went for 100m because I always loved to run sprints. At the starting block, some other girl on my left false-started, but the official made that (foul) in my name," she said.

The 57-year-old Usha, the face of KFC'S latest 'Express Pick-Up' campaign which promises food in seven minutes on takeaway, recollected how the concerned official had erred on his part.

"And another girl on my right again false started and that also he made in my name. On the third one, he made me out. Lot of crowd was there and they came to the ground and went on strike saying I have not committed any foul and other girls had done the fouls. There was a re-run and I won the race. That was my start in 100m," she reminisced.

Usha beat Harjinder Kaur of Punjab to win the race. Under current rules (since 2010), a single false start will result in the disqualification of the concerned athlete. Usha also hailed Neeraj Chopra, India's first athletics gold medallist in Olympics, saying that the Haryana javelin thrower has shown the way that the country's athletes can excel at the biggest global stage.

"After a long-time Indian athletics has won the medal. Me and Milkha Singh had come close to (Olympics) medals but we missed by 1/10th and 1/100th of a second. And this year that long wait of getting a medal in athletics has ended. Neeraj's gold is a motivation for all young athletes because they now know that they can also win medals in athletics. If they do hard work or get facilities like other countries, a track and field athlete can win Olympic medal. He has shown the way."

Chopra became only the second Indian to win an individual gold in the Olympics by clinching the yellow metal in the Tokyo Games in August. Usha, who missed a 400m hurdles bronze by one-hundredth of a second in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, said there has been a sea-change in the facilities available during her time as compared to what are provided currently.

"A lot of difference. I saw a synthetic track for the first time when I went to Moscow, and now the track is everywhere, in every state and every district. The infrastructure facilities have improved a lot. In our time, the national camp will last three or four months, now the athletes are getting training from foreign coaches, recovery experts, masseurs, physios. In our time, maybe we had quality but we didn't have facilities at all. I have done well in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and missed the bronze by 1/100th of a second, but no facilities at all and I trained on my own," she said, adding that now if athletes farewell they get sponsors.

Asked why she got associated with the KFC 'Express Pick-Up' campaign, she said, "Actually, whenever we used to go outside the country during my earlier days, we used to visit KFC restaurants for their chicken. They partnered with me for the campaign because I represent speed and they're launching their seven-minute promise. It is great that chicken lovers can now get their food within seven minutes and they can enjoy (it)."

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