The prestigious Basavashree Award was conferred on sports legend P.T. Usha, here at a glittering function.

Ms. Usha was the 13th recipient of the award instituted by Murugharajendra Math of the district.

Ms. Usha, who was here along with her husband V. Srinivas, received the honour amid a heavy downpour. The award included a citation and Rs. 1 lakh.

The other personalities who have received the award include Nobel laureate Dalai Lama, film and theatre personality Shabana Azmi, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi and social activist Swami Agnivesh.

In her address after receiving the award, the former international athlete expressed her gratitude to the math for the award.

Greeting the large audience in Kannada, Ms. Usha recalled the contributions of the 12th century social reformer Basaveshwar in whose name the award has been constituted.

Admiring the math’s concern for the welfare of society, she appreciated its philanthropic work in providing shelter to the orphanages and holding mass marriage programmes for the poor.

About her prolonged career in sports, she recalled the difficulties and hardships she faced to reach the top spot.

“Hailing from a small village in Payyoli district in Kerala, it was extremely tough to find my place in the world of athletics. The days were hard and the challenge was high, but it was sheer determination that helped me overcome all the odds,” she said.

The recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Arjuna and Padma Shri awards, Ms. Usha advised parents to encourage their children to participate in sports activities.

She said the Usha School of Athletics which she instituted provides a sports platform free to poor students. She has 22 students, and among them two have already won prizes at the national and international level.

She went on to say that the lack of political will had resulted in underdevelopment of sports in the country. “Compared to the west and European countries, we are lagging behind in sports. Countries such as the U.S. and China have realised the importance of sports, and are providing necessary infrastructure for its growth. That is why they are able to secure so many medals in events such as Olympics,” she said.

Since politicians were an “integral part of sports”, she felt that job of the politician should be restricted only to promote sports by providing basic facilities. Taking policy decisions should be left to experienced sportspersons who should be appointed for the job, she added.

Ms. Usha said that efforts should be made at the grassroot level to develop sports by providing basic infrastructure to budding athletes.

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