The legendary P.T. Usha is set to become the first woman president of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) as she emerged as the lone candidate for the top post for the December 10 elections.
The 58-year-old Usha, a multiple Asian Games gold medallists and a fourth-place finisher in the 1984 Olympics 400m hurdles final, filed her nomination papers for the top job on Sunday along with her team for the various posts.
The deadline to file nomination papers for the IOA elections ended on Sunday. IOA elections returning officer Umesh Sinha did not receive any nominations on Friday and Saturday but 24 candidates filed nominations for various posts on Sunday.
Ms. Usha, a top sprinter in her heyday, has also been elected as one of the eight Sportspersons of Outstanding Merit (SOM) by the Athletes Commission of the IOA, making her an electoral college member.
She will also become 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.
Ms. 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.
There will be contests for one post of vice president (female), joint secretary (female). There were 12 candidates in the fray for four executive council members.
The IOA polls will be held to elect one president, one 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, out of which two (one male and one female) shall be from the elected SOMs.
Two members of the Executive Council (one male and one female) will be the Athletes’ Commission representatives.
Ajay Patel of National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) is set to be the senior vice-president as he is also the lone candidate for the post.
Olympic medallist shooter Gagan Narang is also the only candidate for the post of one male vice president. Two candidates – Rajlaxmi Singh Deo, Alaknanda Ashok – have, however, filed nominations for the lone post of woman vice-president.
Indian Weightlifting Federation president Sahdev Yadav will be elected unopposed as the treasurer.
All India Football Federation president Kalyan Chaubey will be the male joint secretary while there were three candidates – Alaknanda Ashok, Shalini Thakur Chawla and Suman Kaushik – for the lone female joint secretary’s post.
Olympic medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and archer Dola Banerjee will be the male and female representative of the eight SOMs in the executive council.
Twelve candidates have, however, filed nominations for the remaining four executive council members. They are Winter Olympian Shiva Keshavan, Cyrus Poncha, Lt Gen Harpal Singh, Bhupender Singh Bajwa, Rohit Rajpal, Amitabh Sharma, Shalini Thakur Chawla, Prashant Khushwaha, Vitthal Shirgaonkar, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Digvijay Chautala and Harjinder Singh.
The scrutiny of the nomination papers will be done on Tuesday and the valid nominated list will be announced the next day. Withdrawal of candidature can be done from December 1-3 and the final list of candidates will be put up on December 4.
Ms. 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.
Recently, a similar situation arose in the AIFF when Chaubey – a BJP leader from West Bengal and a former goalkeeper – entered the fray as surprise candidate in the elections held under the supervision of the Supreme Court and grabbed the top job.
Ms. Usha is one of the most decorated Indian athletes, having won 11 medals, including four gold in the Asian Games from 1982 to 1994.
She won all the four gold in the 1986 Seoul Asian Games – 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay – and also bagged a silver in the 100m.
Ms. Usha won a 100m and 200m medals in the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games. She also won a phenomenal 23 medals, including 14 gold, in the Asian Championships from 1983 to 1998, collectively in 100m, 200m, 400m hurdles, 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay.
But she is most remembered for missing out on a medal at the Los Angeles Olympics 400m hurdles final, where she was beaten by Cristieana Cojocaru of Romania by one hundredth of a second.
The IOA elections are being held under the supervision of SC-appointed retired apex court judge L Nageswara Rao under the new constitution prepared by him.
The IOA adopted the new constitution on November 10 after getting approval from the international committee.
The 77-strong IOA electoral college has nearly 25% former athletes with a host of current and former sportspersons, including Olympic medallists P V Sindhu, Gagan Narang, Sakshi Malik, Yogeshwar Dutt and M M Somaya.
There are 66 members from 33 National Sports Federations which have nominated one male and one female each, eight SOMs (four male and four female), two from the Athletes Commission (one male and one female) and a member of International Olympic Committee in India, Nita Ambani.
The IOA electoral college also has more women members (39) than male (38).