Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken on Sunday visited the Usha School of Athletics at Kinalur, near here, and offered a Central assistance of Rs.5 crore to set up a synthetic track at the school.

The track would go a long way in helping athlete P.T. Usha's young wards as they prepare for competing in major international meets, including the Olympics.

Usha had set up the school in 2002 with the aim of winning India an Olympic medal, which she had closely missed in Los Angeles in 1984.

“Ever since I established the school, I had been submitting proposals for a synthetic track which is something an academy like this desperately needs. But somehow nothing materialised, until now,” Usha said. “I was surprised when Mr. Maken called me up and said that the proposal had been cleared,” she said.

Mr. Maken said he was glad that his first function outside Delhi since assuming charge as Sports Minister three weeks ago was for such a noble purpose. “The government wants to encourage athletes when they want to begin projects like the one Usha has here,” he said. “We could have allotted the synthetic track to a Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre here, but we felt that Usha's school deserved to get it first,” the Minister said.

Mr. Maken said he was very much impressed with the school. “It is good to see such quality infrastructure in a remote area like this,” he said.

The Minister spent time with Usha's trainees, including Tintu Luka, who has already made a mark on the international arena. He examined the facilities at the school's gym and Ayurvedic centre. He also enjoyed a traditional Kerala lunch, which was served to him by Usha herself.

First draft

Later at a press meeting, Mr. Maken said the proposed National Sports Development Legislation would help in reforming the administration of sports in the country. “The first draft would be ready by February 20 and we would invite suggestions from sports administrators and others,” he said.