Sunday, 5 February, 2023
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'Golden Girl' PT Usha to be named India's sports chief

Former track and field star PT Usha will take over as the first woman president of the Indian Olympic Association, becoming the first former international athlete to head the organisation in more than 60 years.

The 58-year-old multiple Asian Games gold medallist -- now a member of parliament -- was the only candidate to file a nomination for the post by the deadline.

Former sports and current law minister Kiren Rijiju congratulated her on Twitter on Sunday, calling her a "legendary Golden Girl".

Cricket-obsessed India regularly struggles to win Olympic medals despite its 1.4 billion population, with a total of only 35 since 1900.

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.