India's Lalita Shivaji Babar competes in the final of the women's 3000 metres steeplechase athletics event at the 2015 IAAF World Championships at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium in Beijing on August 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS
India's Lalita Shivaji Babar competes in the final of the women's 3000 metres steeplechase athletics event at the 2015 IAAF World Championships at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium in Beijing on August 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS

Steeplechaser shatters national mark, first after Usha to enter final

Rio de Janeiro: Lalita Babar opened a new chapter in India’s athletics history in the Olympic Games by becoming the first woman after three decades to enter the final of a track event when she shattered the national mark to reach the 3000M steeplechase medal round.

Lalita, hailing from Satara district of Maharashtra, qualified for the women’s 3000m steeplechase final after finishing fourth in the qualifying heat 2 with a new national record time of 9 minutes, 19.76 seconds while the holder of that mark, compatriot Sudha Singh, was eliminated after a poor run in heat 3.

After qualifying for the final, an elated Lalita said that she was looking to give her best in the final on the Independence day. “Now all the focus for the final on the Independence Day,” said Lalita.

 She, however, expressed her disappointment for compatriot Sudha for failing to make the cut. “Felt sad for Sudha who could not qualify. We train under the same coach. It would have been great had she also qualified. The conditions were perfect, there was some trouble initially,” said Lalita.

The 27-year-old Lalita, who had won the bronze medal in the event in the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, two years ago, emulated ‘Payyoli Express‘ P T Usha by entering the final.

Usha, who runs a running academy now, was the first Indian woman to achieve the distinction when she made the finals of the women’s 400m hurdles in 1984 at Los Angeles before missing the bronze by a fraction of a second.

Lalita, in fact, finished with the seventh-best time in the heats by clipping nearly seven seconds off the existing national mark standing in the name of Sudha (9:26.55), clocked in Shanghai in May.

 The top three in the three heats gained automatic qualification while Lalita made the grade as one of the six fastest from among the rest. Had she ran in the third heat she would have qualified as the winner of that race.

Lalita will be seen in the final of the gruelling race on August 15. She, in fact, had clocked 9:27.09 at New Delhi in the Federation Cup in April, her personal best which was the then national mark that was obliterated two months later by Sudha. In heat 2, Lalita was upstaged by Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya (9:17.55), Emma Coburn of USA (9:18.12) and Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia (9:18.71), all of whom ended up as automatic qualifiers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi PEP Talak

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that India is proud of all of its athletes participating in the Rio Olympics, and urged them not to feel “burdened about the results”. The Prime Minister, in a series of tweets from his personal twitter account, said he was asked by cricketer Sachin Tendulkar to speak about the Indian athletes on Independence Day.   “I appreciate the thought of @sachin_rt but I want to add, why wait for 15th August to speak about the subject. I want to do so now (sic),” the Prime Minister tweeted.  “India is phenomenally proud of all our athletes in Rio and their hard work that got them there. Victory and setbacks are all a part of life,” he said in another tweet.  “I urge all athletes who have their games remaining to give their best and play with determination, not get burdened by what the result will be. The endurance, determination and dedication of every Indian athlete who is in Rio makes us very proud. They are India’s pride,” he added.

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