When Usha missed history even the gold medallist cried for her

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Poonam Mehra

Abu Dhabi, Feb 6 (PTI) P T Usha narrowly missed a medaland history at the Los Angeles Olympics when she finishedfourth in 400m hurdles but such was the Indian legend''s aurathat the eventual gold medallist, Nawal El Moutawakel, todaysaid she too ended up crying for the heartbroken ''PayyoliExpress'' that day.

Moutawakel was the first Muslim-born woman from Africa toclinch an Olympic gold in athletics by finishing on top in400m hurdles. Moutawakel''s medal had such impact at that timethat the King of Morocco declared that girls born on the dayshe won the Olympic gold would be named in her honour.

But the legendary athlete said, for all the joy that shefelt for herself, she could not help shedding tears for herfriend.

"My association with Indian athletes started with P TUsha. I was in complete admiration for her. She proved whatshe was capable of time and again," Moutawakel, who is herefor the Laureus World Sports Awards, told reporters.

Moutawakel said she and Usha were close friends and shecould relate to the pain Usha felt on missing what would havebeen a historic feat for Indian athletics.

"That day as much as I was happy for myself, I was sadfor her because we come from countries where athletics is notthat big. When she came fourth, I cried so hard. I reallywanted her to be on the podium. I wanted to win but I alsowanted her to win along with me," she said.

The 49-year-old, who is also a UNICEF GoodwillAmbassador, said she continues to admire the Indian eventhough the two have lost touch over the years.

"She has done a lot for Indian athletics. I know that shecreated her own foundation to groom athletes. The work thatshe is doing is admirable," she said.

Moutawakel said she even met some Indian athletes at theAsian Games last year and was impressed with the talent ondisplay compared to the time she was an active hurdler.

"I happened to meet a few Indian athletes in Guangzhouduring the Asian Games. They looked so strong and fit. Theireyes were full of hope. I can see the progress," she said.

The International Olympic Committee member said the goodperformance of Indian athletes in recent multi-sporting eventssuch as the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games was a signof the improving standards in track and field events.

"Indian sports has proved that with a little help toathletes, they can do well. The women especially are doingvery well," she said.

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