PT Usha set to be elected unopposed as IOA president

Legendary athlete PT Usha is all set to become the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) as she is the only candidate for the top post in the elections to be held on December 10. She will be the first woman president of IOA. The 58-year-old Usha, a multiple Asian Games gold medallist, had finished fourth in the final of the 400m hurdles at the 1984 Olympics. He filed his nomination papers for the top post on Sunday. Along with him, 14 others from his team filed nomination papers for various posts.

The deadline for filing nomination papers for the IOA elections ended on Sunday. IOA Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha did not receive any nominations on Friday and Saturday but 24 candidates filed nominations for various posts on Sunday. Usha, a top sprinter in her sporting heyday, has also been selected by the IOA’s Athletes’ Commission as one of the eight outstanding sportspersons (SOMs), making her a member of the electoral college.

She will also become the first Olympian and the first international medalist to head the IOA in its 95-year history. He retired from the Games in 2000 after dominating Asian athletics. Usha is the first person after Maharaja Yadwinder Singh to lead the IOA after representing the country as a sportsperson. Yadvinder played a Test match in 1934 and then became the IOA chief in 1938. He was the third President of IOA. His tenure lasted till 1960.

In the current elections, there will be competition for the post of Vice President (Women), Joint Secretary (Women). Twelve candidates are in the fray for four members of the executive council. The IOA will have a President, a Senior Vice President, two Vice Presidents (one male and one female), one Treasurer, two Joint Secretaries (one male and one female), six other Executive Council members up for election. Out of which two (one male and one female) shall be from the elected ‘SOM’.

Two members (one male and one female) of the Executive Council shall be representatives of the Athletes’ Commission. Ajay Patel of the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) is all set to become the senior vice-president as he is also the sole candidate for the post. Olympic medalist shooter Gagan Narang is also the only candidate for a male vice-presidential post. However, nominations have been filed by Rajalakshmi Singh Deo and Alaknanda Ashok for the women’s vice-president post.

Sahdev Yadav, president of the Indian Weightlifting Federation, will be elected unopposed as treasurer. All India Football Federation president Kalyan Choubey will be the male joint secretary while three candidates Alaknanda Ashok, Shalini Thakur Chawla and Suman Kaushik will contest for one post of female joint secretary. Olympic medalist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and archer Dola Banerjee will be the male and female representatives of the eight SOMs on the executive council. However, 12 candidates have filed nominations for the remaining four executive council members.

These include Winter Olympians Shiva Keshavan, Cyrus Poncha, Lt Gen Harpal Singh, Bhupendra Singh Bajwa, Rohit Rajpal, Amitabh Sharma, Shalini Thakur Chawla, Prashant Kushwaha, Vitthal Shirgaonkar, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Digvijay Chautala and Harjinder Singh. Scrutiny of nomination papers will be done on Tuesday and the valid list will be announced the next day. Candidates can withdraw their names from December 1 to 3.

The final list of candidates will be published on December 4. Usha is popularly known as ‘Payyoli Express’. He is being seen as the candidate of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP nominated him as a Rajya Sabha member in July. A similar situation had recently arisen in the AIFF when Choubey, a BJP leader from West Bengal and a former goalkeeper, suddenly emerged as a candidate in the Supreme Court-monitored elections and was elected to the top post. Usha is one of the most successful athlete of the country.

He has won 11 medals including four gold in the Asian Games from 1982 to 1994. He won all four gold (200m, 400m, 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay) medals at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games along with a silver in the 100m. Usha won medals in 100m and 200m at the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games. He won a total of 23 medals in the Asian Championships from 1983 to 1998.

Usha is best remembered for missing out on a medal in the final of the Los Angeles Olympics 400 meters hurdles, where she was beaten by Romania’s Cristiana Cojocaru by one-hundredth of a second. The IOA elections are being held under the new constitution drafted by the Supreme Court-appointed retired judge L Nageswara Rao. The IOA adopted the new constitution on 10 November after getting approval from the International Olympic Committee. About 25 per cent of the IOA’s 77-member electoral college is former athletes, including current and former players including Olympic medalists PV Sindhu, Gagan Narang, Sakshi Malik, Yogeshwar Dutt and MM Soumya.

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