It was a long time coming, over three decades to be precise. For 88-year-old O M Nambiar, the man who nurtured one of India’s greatest athletes in P T Usha, the announcement of his name in the list of this year’s Padma Shri awardees is a case of ‘better late than never’.
Usha was conferred the Padma Shri in 1985 while Nambiar, presented the Dronacharya that year, had to wait for another 36 years before the nation’s fourth highest civilian honour.
“Every medal won by my trainees gives me immense satisfaction. I consider my Dronacharya Award, Best Asian Coach award and now Padma Shri as recognition of my hard work and dedication,” he added.
Looking back in time, an Olympic medal for his most famous ward -- Usha -- was Nambiar’s ‘lifetime dream’ and he recalled being devastated when she missed the bronze in the 1984 Los Angeles Games by a whisker.
The man, who moulded Usha into one of India’s finest athletes during his mentorship from 1977 to 1990, said he couldn’t stop weeping once Usha was done with that race.
It was Nambiar who prepared Usha for 400m hurdles in 1984. She had been a 100m, 200m and 400m runner earlier. Usha won four gold medals in the 1986 Asian Games (in 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay) under the tutelage of Nambiar.