New Delhi (AFP) - Former track and field star P.T.Usha was named the first woman president of the Indian Olympic Association on Saturday, ushering in a more inclusive era for sports administration in the country.
The 58-year-old multiple Asian Games gold medallist -- now a member of parliament -- was elected to the position unopposed.
International Olympic Committee member Nita Ambani said Usha's election was a "landmark moment for Indian sport".
Usha was "a towering inspiration to millions as an athlete, and I am sure she will shine in this new role as well", added Ambani, wife of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani.
Five members of the Indian Olympic Association's new Executive Council are women, including Rowing Federation of India president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo, who was elected vice president, and boxer Mary Kom.
Usha's appointment ends a crisis at the association, which was warned of a possible suspension by the IOC if elections were not held after veteran administrator Narinder Batra resigned early this year.
India regularly struggles to win Olympic medals despite its 1.4 billion population, having claimed only 35 since 1900.
Usha missed out on a bronze in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Games by just 1/100th of a second but still became a national sporting icon.
Nicknamed the "Payyoli Express" after her birthplace in the southern state of 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.
"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 (administrator)," Usha wrote on social media Saturday.
Her election represents a significant change in the organisation of Indian sports, which have largely been run by administrators for decades.
She is the first international sportsperson to be Olympic chief since the Maharaja of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh -- who played in one 1934 cricket Test -- was head of the association from 1938 to 1960.