Its an understatement to say that P T Usha feels extremely protective about her protégé Tintu Luka,who is set to run the 800 m semifinals at the London Olympics after sneaking through the heats with a time of 2.01.75 today.
But Usha will not be able to do much should Tintu tie herself up in knots like she did during the heats. The prospect of a repeat is scary.
Second to start in her first lap,Tintu got boxed in by her competing runners,some of them literally breathing down her neck from three sides. Heading into the home stretch,and quite unaccustomed to this routine trickery of the 800 m,the 23-year-old blundered by moving far out,and spent the straight course making up time for this needless detouring loop. At the finish line,Tintu was forced to lunge desperately to keep out Moroccan Malika Akkaoui,and a near disaster was averted as she came in third to qualify for the semis tomorrow.
Shes not used to big races. She shouldnt have drifted far out just to get out of the box. Today was fine,it was only the heats,but she has to be smarter tomorrow and Im glad she preserved energy for the semis, said Usha. If she hadnt had to cover that curve on the outside,shed have been at least a second faster, said the coach,adding that Tintu is well-equipped for the semis on form.
Big races teach you how to manoeuvre out of a tricky,limiting box,but big international platforms have been scarce for the Kerala runner. We need a good agent who can get us high-standard races, said Usha,adding that as far as preparation goes,Luka could have done with a few more top-level Europe runs before the Olympics.
But Luka will have to show consistent timings to get those invites,which hasnt happened,though shes hovered around the 2-minute mark,not quite going under it.
Usha is often asked why a foreign coach isnt handling Lukas tactics. Shes a fragile runner who needs just the precise amount of pushing. Any over-training leads to injury,and only I know the optimum level to which she can be nudged. Once injured,she puts on weight,so she needs careful handling. Plus,if foreign coaches were the answer to everything,wouldnt other Indians with Russian coaches have done well. Obviously,we are doing something right, said Usha.
Tintus boxed-in problems,though,need urgent out-of-the-box solutions.