Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha (born June 27, 1964), popularly known as P. T. Usha is an Indian athlete from the state of Kerala. P. T. Usha has been associated with Indian athletics since 1979. She is regarded as one of the greatest athletes India has ever produced and is often called the "queen of Indian track and field". She is nicknamed Payyoli Express.
P. T. Usha was born in the village of Payyoli, Kozhikode District, Kerala. In 1976 the Kerala State Government started a Sports School for women, and Usha was chosen to represent her district.
The queen of Indian track and field for two decades, the woman who was nicknamed 'Payyoli Express'’, Udanpari’, and “Golden Girl” because of her speed on the race-track P. T. Usha, has been associated with Indian athletics since 1979. The sporting legend of India, the symbol of perseverance in Indian sports has been through several trials and tribulations in life. She was born in the Kerala village of Koothali near Perambra in Kozhikode district and brought up in” thrikottur” in thikkodi panchayath and later on habihuted in only one kilometers distance place called Payyoli, As the daughter of E. P. M. Paithal and T. V. Lakshmi and afflicted by ill health in her childhood days. Right from her primary school days Usha showed the spark of athletic talent and was the star of many a sports meet.
In 1976 the Kerala State Government started a Sports division for women in Kannur, and Usha was stared practicing under the guidance coach O. M. Nambiar as one among the forty girls athletes in sports division Kannur. In 1979 she participated in the National School Games, where she won the individual championship and came in to the lime light. Her first international performance came in the 1980 Pakistan Open National Meet at Karachi where she won4 gold medals for the country. In 1982 she won gold medal in 200m.race and bronze medal in 100 m. race in the world junior invitation meet (currently called world junior athletic championship) at Seoul. By 1984, the Los Angeles Olympics, she had improved tremendously; she won the 400 m heats, and missed getting India's first track-and-field bronze medal in the 400m finals by 1/100 sec, in a dramatic photo finish. She put her faith in her natural talent and trusted in God almighty, with the strength from the people of India. She emerged a winner becoming the first Indian sports women to enter the Olympics final at the age of twenty.
She had set an Asian best, 55.42 seconds, for the event which still stands today as Indian national record. In 1985 she won 5 gold medals and 1 bronze medal in the Asian track and field championship at Jakarta Indonesia. This track record of Usha in the world of athletics has not been matched or surpassed till date by any athlete, man or woman in the world. In the Seoul Asian Games: Usha won gold medals in the 200 m, 400 m, 400 m hurdles and 4x400m relay. The Seoul Olympics in 1988 proved a disappointment, Inspit of the heel injury and she forced to run for the country, however, with Usha unable to make the finals in her best events. However, she was determined not to be disheartened, and won four golds and two silvers at the Asian Track Federation meet in Delhi, 1989. Having proved her mettle, she decided to retire from athletics, but was lured back to participate in the Beijing Asian Games, where she won 3 silver medals in spite of her limited time schedule for preparation. In 1991, she married V. Srinivasan, and their son Ujjwal was born the following year. Although she enjoyed domesticity and motherhood, she was drawn back to athletics, and astonished the country by winning bronze medals in the 200 m and 400 m at the Asian Track Federation meet at Fukkowakka in Japan, 1998. And, silencing her critics, at the age of 34 she set a new national record for the 200m, improving on her own previous record. P. T. Usha was named sportsperson of the century and the sports woman of the Millennium by the Indian Olympic Association, and is still the Indian with most international track and field medals.
She retired in the year 2000, with a promise to groom bright young talents in her sports School in Kerala. She was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1983, and the Padma Shree in 1985.