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Home Forgotten Heroes A tale of two Olympians: When Ashwini Nachappa outran PT Usha

A tale of two Olympians: When Ashwini Nachappa outran PT Usha

Ashwini Nachappa is an Olympian of extraordinary talent. This is the story of how she outran PT Usha twice in the span of two weeks.

Throughout India’s illustrious history when it comes to athletics, there have been some moments which are especially memorable; moments that ultimately went down in history as landmarks in time. This is a story of one such moment- a moment when two Indian Olympians – PT Usha and Ashwini Nachappa met on the National circuit. This is the story of a moment that stunned the sporting world of India once.

The Indian FloJo

Ashwini Nachappa was a noticeable figure on the track long before that fateful race in 1991. Fondly known as the Indian FloJo- after the beautiful American Olympic champion Florence-Griffith Joyner, she was hailed as one of the most glamorous figures in athletics with names like Shiny Wilson and PT Usha providing stiff competition for her.

The flamboyant way in which she carried herself drew the eyes of spectators both on home soil and away. But in 1991, Ashwini had given her admirers a different reason to adore her.

As a 9-year old growing up in Karnataka’s Kodagu district, Ashwini’s tryst with athletics began on the track instead of the field when she first took up long jump. She shifted to track soon after. Early on in her career, in 1985, Ashwini finished second to PT Usha both in 100m and 200m at the Chennai Inter State Championship. But that was soon about to change.

The first instance came in the Open National Championship at New Delhi where she ran a classic 200m race to dethrone the Payyoli Express to the second place. Ashwini registered a timing of 24.07s while Usha could clock 24.12s.

India’s FloJo had already had a remarkable career when she met PT Usha in the track again in the 1990 Open Nationals. She represented the country in almost every big sporting event like the Olympics, World Cup, World Championship, Asian Games, Asian Championships and SAF Games.

Not only that, she had also made several appearances on India’s silver screen which had all been met with wide appreciation and critical acclaim.

 

But then, there comes a turning point in every career, something they are best remembered for. For Ashwini Nachappa, it was the year 1990 which deserves a special mention in her sporting career. It was the year she got the better of PT Usha twice.

The first instance came in the Open National Championship at New Delhi where she ran a classic 200m race to dethrone the Payyoli Express to the second place. Ashwini registered a timing of 24.07s while Usha could clock 24.12s.

Barely two weeks later at the Permit Meet in New Delhi, she again defeated Usha. Thus she became the first Indian sprinter to beat Usha twice in a year.

Ashwini Nachappa beyond the track

Ashwini Nachappa is an Olympian of extraordinary talent. That is something that hardly needs saying. Despite retiring from competitive athletics in 1991, her association with the sport has not ended. That very year, she starred in a biopic of her life.

Currently, she is an active member of the Clean Sports initiative which is an organisation aiming to address the problem of drug use among athletes and facilitate better management of Olympic sports in India.

It’s always nice when athletes take a stand to give back something to their sport even after they have stopped actively competing.

Ashwini Nachappa may have risen to prominence for defeating PT Usha twice within a span of 2 weeks but this Olympian is so much more than that.


Also read: Fulfilled my promise at the CWG, says Asia’s fastest sprinter Hima Das

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