Former track and field star PT Usha officially took over as the first woman president of the Indian Olympic Association, confirming her new role with a statement on social media on Saturday.

The 58-year-old multiple Asian Games gold medallist – now a member of parliament – was the only candidate to file a nomination for the post by the deadline.

“Humbled and touched by all the messages over the last few days over my election as the President of the IOA,” Usha said in a statement on Twitter.

“Through the experiences of my journey I know very well the value of this post. I feel the pain of an athlete, and that of a coach. Above all, about the role of a true admin. I look forward to upholding the Olympic values and working with national and international sporting federations to ensure India propels forward in our quest of being a global sporting powerhouse,” she added.

The Indian Olympic Association confirmed the appointment of the following candidates:

Usha is considered one of the greatest Indian athletes. She narrowly missed out on a bronze in the 400m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Games by just 1/100th of a second but was a national sports icon for results at the continental level, especially.

Nicknamed the “Payyoli Express” – after the town of her birth in the southern state Kerala – she dominated Indian athletics for close to two decades, winning 11 Asian Games medals including four golds in Seoul in 1986, before retiring in 2000.

Double Olympic medallist shuttler PV Sindhu, who is now a member of the IOA Athletes Commission, congratulated Usha on her historic appointment.

“She herself is a legend in athletics. She is also an MP right now and so I think right now this is something new for the sport. She will definitely do well and I wish her all the very best,” Sindhu is quoted as telling reporters by PTI.

“It is a really good thing (first time a woman heading the IOA) because she will understand the need of other sportpersons, it will help them and she will take it to another level. I am very happy and sure that sport is going to another level.”

Nita Ambani, in her role as an International Olympic Committee member, welcomed her to sports administration.

“I remember watching her with pride as she represented our country and won laurels for India,” Ambani was quoted as saying in a statement. “She has been a towering inspiration to millions as an athlete, and I am sure she will shine in this new role as well. Our women athletes have led the charge in making India a global sporting powerhouse, and I’m delighted to see so many women representatives now in IOA’s Executive Council.”

Her election – which has been formalised on December 10 – represents a step change in the organisation of Indian sports, which have largely been run by administrators for decades.

The Maharaja of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh, who played in one 1934 cricket Test, was head of the IOA from 1938 to 1960, reported AFP.

A succession of bureaucrats and state-level cricketers followed, with veteran administrator Narinder Batra resigning as IOA president earlier this year after a Delhi court ordered him to step down from the post he took over in December 2017.

An interim chief took over before India’s top court ordered fresh elections, under instructions from International Olympic Committee to clean up house or face suspension.

(With AFP inptus)