Several Indian women have excelled on the sporting stage over the years, across sport. Some have pulled out all the stops in the track-and-field arena, some on the tennis court, and some not even on a playing field.
Here, we profile 10 iconic women who have represented India on the world sporting stage:
Nicknamed the ‘Payyoli Express,’ PT Usha was one of India’s earliest and most well-known track-and-field icons. The Kerala-born sprinter represented India at the Olympic Games on multiple occasions over her long and illustrious career.
She would eventually become one of the country’s most decorated track and field athletes, but Usha was a prodigy who showed promise early on. At only 16 years old, Usha became the youngest ever Indian sprinter at the Olympic Games, representing the country in Moscow in 1980. That would be the first of three Olympic games she participated in, and she would better her performance exponentially in 1984.
At the next Olympic Games, held in Los Angeles, Usha set the best time in the semi-finals, progressing easily to the finals of the event. Eventually, however she would end up missing out on a medal spot by the slimmest of margins – a hundredth of a second.
Usha had her biggest successes at the Asian Games, with a staggering six silver medals and four golds across disciplines. She was also equally good at each, winning medals at the 200m, 400m, the relay and the hurdles.
At the 1984 Olympics, Usha set an event record the first time the 400m hurdles was added to the women’s athletics at the Olympic Games. Although that record has since been broken elsewhere, it continues to be the Indian National Record.
She received the Arjuna Award in 1984, and was then conferred India’s third-highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri, later that same year.
Since her retirement, Usha has kept close to the sport she once excelled at. She opened the PT Usha Training Academies, and trained Olympian Tintu Lukka.