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The Rediff Interview/Sprint Legend P T Usha
'Politicians must not meddle in sports'
August 18, 2003
P T Usha, India's best-known woman athlete, is busy with the Usha School of Athletics, which she started a year ago at Koyilandy in Kerala's Kozhikode district. It has been a tough job for Usha to open the Academy, the first and biggest private sporting school opened by an athlete in the country.
Usha says her sport school's mission is to get an Indian on the victory podium at the 2008 Olympics. But even as she imparts relentless training to young athletes at the Academy, Usha is often upset at the "bad way the government treats sports and sportspersons in India."
"The national sports awards have lost their glamour because awards from the government always come with controversies," says the athlete known as the 'Payyoli Express.'
In an exclusive interview with Deputy Managing Editor George Iype, Usha asks the government to change the guidelines for selecting the best sportspersons in the country.
You have called for revamping the guidelines for the national sports awards. Is the present set of guidelines ineffective to honour the right sports talent in the country?
Why can't we go beyond the booklet and choose names? I felt the sports awards selection committee does not have enough freedom. Therefore, the government needs to set new guidelines to ensure that the prestigious sports awards should be given to the right people and the status of the awards is not diluted.
Has the prestige of these awards been diluted over the years?
Look at what happened this year. The selection committee recommended names for the awards including the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Aruna Awards; but the government got back to the committee insisting it should revise the names. I stand by the committee's recommendations. The committee did nothing wrong by recommending two athletes for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards. I think the government should change the rules that only one person should be give the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award and that only 15 people should be bestowed the Arjuna Awards.
But the government argues that there should be a stipulated number of awards to be given to the sportspersons. Otherwise it could create problems.
What happens if two Indian athletes win Olympics gold medals? Can the government stick to the rule that only one Indian athlete can be awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna?
Do you feel money, political power or influence plays a role in the finalization of sports awards?
What does sports in India lack?
What hope do you have for India's athletic future?