Lalita Babar feels she could have bettered her timing after the long distance Indian runner capped her fairy-tale journey in the Rio Olympics with a top-10 finish in the 3000m steeplechase final.
“I’m satisfied with the finish but not with the timing. Overall, I’m happy with a top-10 finish but could have bettered my timing. The target was to go below nine minutes 15 seconds,” Lalita said after her event.
Lalita failed to repeat her creditable display in the qualification as she clocked 9:22.74 in the finals on Monday, nearly three second outside her national record effort of 9:19.76 in the qualification on Saturday.
Despite her 10th finish, Lalita’s effort was still the best performance by an Indian in a track event after after PT Usha’s fourth-place finish in the 400m hurdles in 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
“I was trying to hold the lead pack but conceded the lead. I am not happy with the performance as I feel could have bettered my heat performance,” said Lalita.
At one stage she advanced to the fifth position midway into the race but in 25 metres she fell away gradually and was in 11th position before overtaking Courtney Frerichs of the United States to finish 10th.
Kenyan-born Ruth Jebeth of Bahrain won the gold in 8:59.75s which is less than a second outside the world record timing of 8:58.81s. She was the pre-event favourite.
2015 World Championships gold winner Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkomoi of Kenya took the silver in 9:07.12 while American Emma Coburn won the bronze in 9:07.63.
Lalita, who had clocked 9:19.76 to better her national mark for the fourth time since the Asian Games and make the final cut for the first time in an Olympic track event since PT Usha, revealed that the ‘Payyoli Express’ had wished her luck.
“Usha had given me best wishes before the start and I told her that I will to give my best. But I could not better the timing,” she said.
Now all the hopes would be on Usha’s protege Tintu Luka, who will run in the women’s 800m on August 17.
“Hopefully, she (Luka) will make the final and do well there,” Lalita said.
Lalita had a knee pain after she hit a hurdle on her way to set the national record in the heats on Saturday but she said it did not affect her much.
She said the warm conditions took her by surprise.
“You will get hurt if you run. The plan was to improve my heat timing. The weather was very warm but it affected all of us and I cannot blame it.
“It’s not easy to come among top-10 in long distance. The field is very competitive. Everyone wants to win a medal,” she said.