Legendary Indian athlete PT Usha on Monday elected as the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
Usha missed out on a bronze in the 400m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Games by just 1/100th of a second but still became a national sports icon.
Nicknamed the “Payyoli Express" — after the town of her birth in the southern state Kerala — she dominated Indian athletics for close to two decades, winning 11 Asian Games medals including four golds in Seoul in 1986, before retiring in 2000.
Her election — which is formally due on December 10 — represents a step change in the organisation of Indian sports, which have largely been run by administrators for decades.
The Maharaja of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh, who played in one 1934 cricket Test, was head of the IOA from 1938 to 1960.
A succession of bureaucrats and state-level cricketers followed, with veteran administrator Narinder Batra resigning as IOA president earlier this year after a Delhi court ordered him to step down from the post he took over in December 2017.
An interim chief took over before India’s top court ordered fresh elections.
Union Law Minister and former Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju congratulated the veteran sprinter on her appointment as the president of IOA. On November 26, the 58-year-old took to social media to inform everyone that she has filed her nomination for the top post in next month’s IOA elections.
The deadline to file nomination papers for the IOA elections ended on November 27. IOA elections returning officer Umesh Sinha did not receive any nominations for the top post till November 27. However, 24 candidates filed nominations for various posts on Sunday.
“Congratulations to legendary Golden Girl, Smt. P T Usha on being elected as the President of Indian Olympic Association. I also congratulate all the sporting heroes of our country on becoming the office bearers of the prestigious IOA! A nation is proud of them!," tweeted Rijiju. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) also retweeted Rijiju’s tweet.
One of the most decorated athletes in India, Usha won four gold medals and seven silver medals at the Asian Games.
Usha is among the eight sportspersons of outstanding merit (SOMs) picked by the newly-elected Athletes Commission to vote during the December 10 elections for the new executive committee of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
The other seven SOMs are Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling) M.M. Somaya (hockey), Rohit Rajpal (tennis), Akhil Kumar (boxing), Suma Shirur (shooting), Aparna Popat (badminton) and Dola Banerjee (archery).
On November 15, the Supreme Court said its orders in connection with the adoption of the constitution and polling for executive committee of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) should be scrupulously followed.
The bench said there is a broad consensus in terms of the note submitted by Justice Rao that the elections should be held on December 10.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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