Steeplechase athlete Lalita Babar may not have succeeded in winning a medal for the country at the Rio Olympics but she says she has come back rich in experience and exposure that will stay with her for years and will prove helpful in the year 2020, when she hopes to again represent her country in the Olympics.
“I was quite confident of reaching the finals and hence, I was very happy when I reached the finals, where I competed with the best athletes in the world. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a medal. I was under a lot of pressure – I had my hopes high and the entire country had pinned their hopes on me. However, I had injured my knee in the earlier hurdle and it was swollen. Yet, I gave my best shot,” said Lalita, who, since past two years, had been training in Ooty under coach Nicholas Sansari for the Olympics and followed a rigorous schedule wherein she underwent eight hours of training every day.
Given that it was her first Olympics, Lalita says the experience was more than overwhelming. “The fact that I got an opportunity to run alongside world’s best athletes, means a lot to me as one gets to learn so much by just observing them,” added Lalita, who reached Pune on Sunday around noon.
On Sunday evening, she was felicitated by the Maharashtra Sports Association at the Balewadi Stadium. “I was touched to see my community people from Maan taluka turning up for the event. I am waiting to reach my village and meet my mother, with whom I spoke last when I was at Rio,” said Lalita, who hails from a tiny village Mohi in Maan Taluka in Satara district. Lalita’s father is a farmer in Mohi and she has two sisters and one brother.
Among those present on the occasion also included Bharat Chavan, who had spotted Lalita’s talent when she was in 5th class and he saw her sprinting in a kho-kho competition. After seeing her stamina in 400-m and 800-m races, he encouraged her to participate in the National Games competition for schools. And then, there was no looking back.
Lalita is happy that two Indian sportswomen were able to win medals for the country – Sakshi Malik in wrestling and PV Sindhu in badminton. “It feels great to see Indian women excelling in all the fields, including sports,” she said.