India’s Lalita Babar became the first Indian woman to qualify for the final of a track event at Olympics for the first time in 32 years.
She qualified for the women’s 3000m steeplechase event after finishing fourth in the qualifying heat 2 with a new national record time of 9 minutes, 19.76 seconds. She qualified at the eighth position.
Lalita, 27, has won bronze medal in the event in the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, two years ago and will run the final on August 15.
The other Indian in contention, Sudha Singh, was eliminated after a poor run in heat 3. She clocked 9:43
India Athletics, Rio 2016 Olympics:
# Lalita Babar qualifies for the women’s 3000m steeplechase after finishing the top among the fastest losers
# Sudha Singh finishes with a timing of 9:43.29. There goes her chances of qualifying for the finals
# Sudha trails a lot in the early part of the race. She needs to pull up quickly
# Sudha Singh will be the next Indian eyeing to take a place in the final. She begins her heats now
# Lalita should go through to the final as she is the leader in timing for players who didn’t qualify automatcally
# Lalita finishes fourth in the heats with a timing of 9:19:76. That is the new national record. She has shattered the previous one by seven seconds
# A Kenyan athlete has overtaken all three athletes and Lalita has gone into fourth position
# Lalita in top three now with a lap to go! Can she do it? She will qualify for the final if she finishes in top three
# Now Lalita in top four! Great run after the fall. She is trying her best to break into the top three
# What a race by Lalita! She is back in the top five and can give a shot at qualifying
# Oh ! Lalita Babar has fallen off a hurdle. She has lost her lead in the race. This is very very depressing for her
# Lalita leads the lot at the end of the 1000m mark and she is looking good to finish in top three and qualify
# India’s Lalita Babar’s heat has begin in the women’s 3000m steeplechase
Sprinter Dutee Chand, who made it to her first Olympics after fighting the odds arising out of a ‘gender test’, finished a disappointing seventh in her 100m heats on the opening day of athletics event. Dutee, who became the first Indian woman to qualify for the 100m dash in 36 years, clocked 11.69secs, well below her national record timing of 11.24secs to finish seventh in heat number 5 at the Olympic Stadium.
Men’s quarter-miler Muhammad Anas also crashed out at the heats while long jumper Ankit Sharma failed to advance to the final round to pile on the Indian misery. From lane number six, Anas started off the blocks well but could only clock 45.95secs, more than a half a second outside his national record timing of 45.40secs to finish sixth in the field of eight in heat number seventh.
Kerala lad Anas finished 31st overall out of 50 athletes who competed in men’s 400m race. First three in each of the seven heats and the next three fastest qualify for the semifinals.
Long jumper Ankit Sharma also produced a below par best effort of 7.67m in his third attempt to finish 12th overall in a field of 30. Another national record holder Sharma had produced 8.19m in Kazakhstan in June while qualifying for Rio but here he struggled to even come close to his best.
A ‘nervous’ Dutee said, she was done in by the pressure and a long 36-hour ordeal in an economy class flight from home while reaching here had affected her preparation. “I was really scared and nervous. It’s a huge atmosphere. I got really scared and could not give my best. This is a completely different atmosphere, everyone was so taller than me,” Dutee said.
Starting from lane 4, Dutee was quick off the blocks but fell by the wayside once USA’s Tianna Bartoletta and Ewa Swoboda of Poland took the lead midway into the race.
Making a sprint debut for Indian women for the first time after P T Usha in Moscow 1980, Dutee once again struggled to accelerate in the last 25 metres to finish seventh in heat five, ahead of bottom placed Patricia Taea of Cook Island. She said the long flight did not give her an ideal way of preparation and her personal coach’s late arrival only two days before the competition made matters worse.
“I was well prepared in Almaty when I clocked 11.24secs as I had reached there well in advance. But here, I was tired after the long 36-hour flight in a crammed economy class seat. I reached here on August 5 evening. I slept for two days, had severe back pain. I could not adjust well. My coach also reached late and I did not get any help here. He did not accreditation and faced a lot of trouble,” she said.
“It would have really helped if I competed in an event after achieving the qualifying mark,” she added.
A face of gender equality after winning a landmark case against the IAAF’s policy of hyperandrogenism, Dutee vowed to return stronger at Tokyo 2020. “I know I have disappointed everyone, and could not give a better time, but I promise to return stronger. I’m grateful to everyone for supporting me. It’s because of their best wishes I could come at this level. It’s great to become the only sprinter from Odisha to compete at Olympics,” she said.
“I was very excited. It was my first Olympics so was not aware how to go about it. Hope I will be better prepared next time,” she signed off.