Payyoli Express will train her wards at Mangala Stadium
Barely a few months after its inauguration, the synthetic track at Mangala Stadium may play host to one of the country’s finest athletes: the now-retired P.T. Usha. After a cursory inspection of the track on Sunday for its probable use as a training ground for her students, the Olympian gave her approval.
“It seems fine. It is not bouncy or uneven,” Ms. Usha told Deputy Commissioner N. Prakash, who accompanied her during the inspection.
She said the nearest synthetic track for practice for students of the Kozhikode-based Usha School of Athletics was at Ernakulam, around 200 km away. However, with the Mangala stadium synthetic track in operation, it would be a good alternative for the budding athletes, she said, adding, “Mangalore is just a three-hour train journey away.”
Talking to reporters here, she rued that athletics and sports infrastructure was ignored in the country. “There should ideally be a synthetic track in every district. Athletics is tough, and needs more support,” Ms. Usha said, referring to the lack of support staff for budding athletes. Perhaps it was this neglect that led to a poor haul of athletic medals in the recently concluded Asian Athletics Championship in Pune, Ms. Usha said. “They won two Gold medals. When I was running, I would get around four Gold medals, while the Indian team overall would get around nine.”
‘I can wait for film honour’
Will a big Bollywood movie on the life of Olympic track star Jeev Milkha Singh put the spotlight on athletics again? “Yes, it definitely will. It will show people how much strain, struggle and effort an athlete puts. It will inspire people,” said P.T. Usha, adding: “I saw the movie and I liked it.”
When asked if there was any talk on a movie based on her story – her missing out on a bronze by 1/100 of a second at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was reminiscent of Milkha Singh’s fourth-place finish in the 1960 Rome Olympics – Ms. Usha beamed a broad smile. “Milkha Singh is far senior (to me). His 1960 achievement was made into a movie only now. I ran during the 1980s, and so there is still time for a movie to come out,” she said.