G Lakshmanan arrived in London with two wishes to fulfill: meeting 5,000 and 10,000m World Champion Mo Farah, and eclipsing India’s 25-year-old 5k record. Despite clocking his personal best, Lakshmanan finished way off the national mark, but in the process got to run against Farah.
Lakshmanan, in the same heat as the Briton, managed to cross the finish line with a decent timing of 13:35.69s (previous personal best 13:36.62s) on Wednesday but it was not enough to take him through to the final. He finished 15th in his heat and 31st overall. Only the top five from each heats advanced automatically.
Incessant rain and chilly London weather did not help Lakshmanan’s cause. “Before the race could start my feet became numb due to the chill,” he said with a tone of disappointment.
But running alongside Farah, who finished second the heat with 13:30.18s on the clock, was more than enough consolation for the 27-year-old who trains under long – and middle distance coach Surender Singh. “We were sitting next to each other before the heats. But I did not want to disturb him and disrupt his focus. But right after the race I shook hands with him and wished him well for the final,” Lakshmanan said.
This was the stiffest challenge the Tamil Nadu athlete has faced in his career so far. At the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar, his timing of 14.54.48s had earned him the gold by a distance and also a ticket to the Worlds. In his last competition before the London event, the Inter-State championship in Guntur, he clocked 14:07.76 and finished almost 13 seconds ahead of the silver medallist.
“Only after I qualified through the Asian Championships did I started thinking about running against such world-class runners. This really has been the toughest race I have ever run. I knew I had to catch up in the last lap, but I did not have enough steam left in me,” Lakshmanan said.
Now he will continue his pursuit of Bahadur Prasad’s national record (13:29.70s) set when he was just two. “ It is going to take a lot of effort. It’s not easy to add speed but I am going to get that record for sure.”