Ushering in a new era in the country’s sports administration, the legendary P T Usha was on Saturday elected as the first woman president of Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
The 58-year-old Usha, a multiple Asian Games gold medallist and fourth place finisher in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics 400m hurdles final, was declared elected unopposed for the top post in the polls.
The elections were held under the supervision of Supreme Court-appointed retired SC judge L Nageswara Rao.
The election of Usha to the top job marked an end to the long drawn crisis in the faction-ridden IOA, which was warned of a possible suspension by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) if elections are not held this month.
The polls were originally due to be held in December 2021.
Usha’s anointment to the top post was a forgone conclusion late last month after she emerged as the lone candidate for the top post.
Nobody was willing to fight against Usha, who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in July.
Ajay Patel of National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has been elected unopposed as senior vice-president. Olympic medallist shooter Gagan Narang and Rowing Federation of India president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo have been elected unopposed as vice presidents.
Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) president Sahdev Yadav has been elected the treasurer. All India Football Federation (AIFF) president and former goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey has been elected unopposed as the joint secretary (male).
Alaknanda Ashok of Badminton Association of India (BAI) was elected as joint secretary (female) after emerging winner in a three-way battle. Shalini Thakur Chawla and Suman Kaushik were also in the fray.
Usha, fondly known as the ‘Payyoli Express’, is being seen as a candidate of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which had nominated her as a Rajya Sabha member in July.
She also became the first Olympian and first international medallist to head the IOA in its 95-year-old history, adding another feather in her cap after dominating Indian and Asian athletics for two decades before retiring in 2000 with a bagful of international medals.
Usha is the first sportsperson to have represented the country and also become IOA chief since Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, who played a Test match in 1934. Singh was the third IOA president who held office from 1938 to 1960.
Olympic medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and archer Dola Banerjee are in the executive council as male and female representatives of the eight Sportspersons of Outstanding Merit (SOM).
Bhupender Singh Bajwa, Amitabh Sharma, Harpal Singh and Rohit Rajpal have also been elected on the executive council, which is substantially different from the earlier ones.
At least five of the 14 executive council members (including IOC member in India, Nita Ambani), are former sports persons, which is unprecedented in the IOA history.
Legendary boxer MC Mary Kom and table tennis great Achanta Sharath Kamal are also part of the excutive council by virtue of being president and vice president of the Athletes Commission.