'If I am wellknown today, it is all because of Usha'

Coach O M Nambiar recalls his nearly
20 year-long association with India's super athlete.

I first saw Usha in 1976 during the Payyoli school annual sports meet where I was the guest to distribute the prize. What impressed me at first sight about Usha was her lean shape and fast walking style. I knew she could become a very good sprinter.

She was different from others in the sports school and was very punctual. I lived near her house and therefore I had lots of time to train her. The results were quick.

At the 1978 Quilon nationals, she won five medals. That was the beginning and then there was no looking back. I was convinced of Usha's potential. As she moved from school to college, my training for Usha continued making her win 14 out of the 15 gold medals in the Kerala state college sports meet. I always wanted her to move up the ladder of success because I knew she was a brilliant athlete. Especially in the 200m, she was simply unbeatable.

We struggled hard almost for 10 years. Sometimes I did not have money. I travelled with Usha with the pension I got from the Air Force. In 1981, Usha was given a job in the Railways. Then I used to get free TA and DA allowances.

I always dreamt of Usha making it to the Olympics. Therefore, from day one, my training techniques for her were accordingly. Whenever she was out of town in coaching camps and sports meets across the country, I had to virtually look her after like a father. I cooked food for her, especially when we were abroad. I wanted to ensure that she should not lose out due to lack of continuous training.

I do not have any regrets that she could not win the prized medal in the Los Angeles Olympics. She almost won the medal. That was our saddest and glorious moment. I think she lost out because the race was called for a second start. She was moving ahead so well in the first start that, if not for the restart,

Usha could certainly have won the medal. But I have no regrets. She is the first Indian woman to achieve whatever she has achieved. I am happy and honoured that she was one of my super pupils.

Usha was always a very hard-working and meticulous athlete. She was always confident and optimistic. She rarely got depressed. But I should say that she was very sensitive especially when it came to her abilities. She performed her best always and always wanted to break her own records.

By the time I stopped being her trainer, I had made a star in the 100m, 200m and 400m hurdles. People say I parted company with her in dissatisfaction. But that is not true. I left her when she was at the peak of her athletic career. We continue to be great family friends. If I am well-known today, if I received awards, it is all because of Usha. Therefore, I am indebted to her just as she is indebted to me.

As told to George Iype