Beijing: In two contrasting performances, India’s Lalita Babar finished a creditable eighth after leading for the major part of the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase race as compatriot Tinku Lukka failed to qualify for the women’s 800m semi-finals but managed a 2016 Rio Olympics qualification berth at the World Athletics Championships here on Wednesday.
In the penultimate event of the day at the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium, Lalita ran an impressive race to clock nine minutes and 29.64 seconds and finish eighth out of 15 competitors. The race was won by Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi in 9:19.11 while Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi (9:19.24) and German Gesa Felicitas (9:19.25) clinched silver and bronze.
Lalita reacted slower than her opponents at the start but slowly moved to the front. It did not take the 26-year-old much time to move into the lead and extend it by quite a margin. The reigning Asian champion timed 3:09.96 at the 1,000m split and 6:22.27 at the 2,000m split to take a huge lead in the race. But in the last two laps, the pack caught up and overtook Lalita. In the last lap, the 2014 Incheon Asian Games bronze medallist was not able to match the pace of the other runners, but gave it one last spurt to make sure she finished inside the top-10.
The Maharashtra girl had broken the national record on Monday to qualify for the final with a time of 9:27.86, bettering her personal and national record of 9:34:13 by six seconds. She also became the first Indian to qualify for the Worlds women’s 3000m steeplechase final.
Earlier in the day, Tinku’s season’s best performance of 2:00.95 minutes was not enough to earn a semi-final spot as the Keralite finished seventh out of eight competitors in her heat to crash out of the women’s 800m race. However, the reigning Asian champion’s time was enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympics with the qualification mark set at 2:01.00.
Marina Arzamasova of Belarus won the heat with a time of 1:58.69, registering the fastest first-round time in the history of the championships.
Out of the 45 athletes who featured in the heats, 24 qualified for the semis. Apart from the three winners in each of the six heats, the next six best performers also went through.
Tintu, who is coached by the legendary P.T. Usha and recorded her personal best of 1:59.17 in Spilt, Croatia in 2010, clocked 57.06 seconds for the first 400m.
Vikas Gowda is the only Indian who will be seen in action here on Thursday. He will take part in the men’s discus throw qualifiers.