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News25 Jul 2000

Indian track star P.T. Usha hangs up her spikes



26 July 2000 – New Delhi - India's best known athlete P.T. Usha, who dominated Asian track and field in the eighties, retired from the sport on Wednesday with a promise to groom future stars.

Usha, 36, a mother of an eight-year-old son, said she wanted to devote more time to her family, besides starting a track and field academy in her home state of Kerala.

"I've had my good days, it is now time to move on," Usha told AFP here.

"I miss my family when I am away training, particularly my young son. I want to give him more time and also train youngsters so that they may bring a good name for the country."

Usha wanted to make a final bow at next month's Asian championships in Jakarta, but felt she was not fit enough to give it her best shot.

"There was a chance that the championships will be postponed till November, which would have given me enough time to prepare. But that was not to be," she said.

Jakarta was the scene of her memorable triumph at the Asian meet in 1985 when she won five golds - 100meters, 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles and the 4x400m relay - besides a bronze in the shorter relay.

A year later in the Asian Games in Seoul, Usha notched up four golds and a silver.

Usha's best and worst moments, ironically, came in a single race at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles when she missed the bronze in the 400m hurdles by 1/100th of a second.

She recorded her best time of 55.42secs in that race - still an Indian national record -- but lost the medal in a photo-finish.

"It was my best performance, but I cried after that," Usha recalled. "It was difficult to believe that I had missed an Olympic medal by a whisker."

Usha, who made her international debut at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, had decided to retire after managing only a silver at the Asian Games in Beijing in 1990.

But she returned four years later at the Hiroshima Asiad after a painful separation with her long-time coach O.M. Nambiar and won a silver in the longer relay.

In her last international appearance at the Asian meet in Fukuoka, Japan in 1998, Usha surprised a young field to return with a creditable haul of one gold in the 4x100m relay, a silver in the longer relay and a bronze each in the 200m and 400m.