Indian track legend PT Usha remembers the time at Los Angeles Olympics of 1984, where she was forced to eat rice porridge with pickle and missed a medal by just fractions of a second. The plain food without any supplementary benefits was behind her narrow defeat, in which she lost out on a bronze medal, she claims.
“That definitely affected my performance in the last 35 metre of my event since I couldn’t sustain the energy level,” she said.
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In the iconic 400 metre hurdles final, PT Usha and Cristieana Cojocaru of Romania finished the race almost at the same time but the later won as she went for decisive lunge.
The legend still regrets the fact that minimum facilities were given to Indian athletes those days.
“We would jealously look at the athletes from other countries enjoying fabulous amenities; they had the latest equipment at their disposal. We wondered if we too would one day have access to such facilities,” she is quoted as saying in an interview in the latest edition of the Equator Line magazine.
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Usha went on to say that during the Games Village they were constantly forced to eat rice porridge with pickle.
“I remember it - the pickle we in Kerala call ‘kadu manga achar’. That and some sliced fruit. I was not accustomed to baked potatoes or half-boiled chicken with soya sauce and some other typical American food.
“No one had told us that in LA we would get only American food. I had no choice but to eat rice porridge without any nutrition supplement, and that definitely affected my performance in the last 35 metres of my event since I couldn’t sustain the energy level,” she said.
Usha graced the tracks for 18 years winning medals for India. Now she runs a coaching academy – Usha School of Athletics – to give world-class training facilities for athletes.
In that particular event, Nawal Moutawakal of Morocoo and Ann Lousie of Sweden bagged the gold and silver medal.
Usha says she wants to fulfil her dream of an Indian sprinter at the grand stage of Olympic.
“Now my life is completely focused on that goal with the start of Usha School of Athletics. The school seeks to give the budding athletes things I was denied as an athlete. Eighteen girls are training here as boarders,” she says.
(With inputs from agencies)