It’s starting to become a painfully familiar sight. Tintu Luka storming ahead, setting the pace for rest of the field only to be left gasping on the home stretch and eventually surrendering the lead rather meekly. Wednesday was no different. But it was marginally better. She held on to win silver in the 800.
Tintu clocked her season best time of 1:59.19 seconds but it wasn’t good enough to win her a gold medal in the women’s 800m race at the Asian Games. That went to Kazakhstan’s Mukasheva Margarita, who broke a two-decade-old Games record of 1:59.85s with a timing of 1:59.02s on a chilly evening at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium.
As is the case with her, Tintu was the fastest off the blocks and led the pack from the beginning. Starting in Lane 4, the 25-year-old from Kannur preferred pace over endurance and believed she was in the control of the race throughout. She was leading Margarita by an arms-length and continued to stay ahead of the field even at the back stretch.
However, Tintu had over-paced herself and by the time she reached the final 200m, she was panting. She looked above her right shoulder and could see the towering figure of Margarita shadowing over her. Within no time, the Kazakh runner had overtaken Tintu as she dragged herself to the finish line.
China’s Zhao Jing too sensed an opportunity and shifted gears but luckily for Tintu, she charged a bit too late in the day and the Indian crossed the line second to narrowly miss out on gold. Sushma Devi, the other Indian in the fray, ended up fourth with a personal best of 2:01.92s.
Tintu’s race revolves around pace than endurance. But her over-reliance on speed has scripted her downfall on almost all occasions. But legendary sprinter and Tintu’s coach PT Usha said the she needs to pace her runs better and stick to the game plan set before the race. “I have asked her to run 58 seconds in first but she ran 57. That got me worried. For every 200m she runs, we have set a time target but she clocked one second lesser each time. She needs to pace herself better,” Usha said.
Usha said they’ve tried different strategies for Tintu to find a solution to her recurring problem. Last year at the Asian Athletics Championships in Pune, Usha said Tintu began cautiously and tried to stay close to the same Kazakh girl but Margarita then accelerated in the home stretch, leaving Tintu in her wake. “That race bogged her down and she returned to the tried and tested strategy of running fast,” Usha said. “Once you start full blast, you will slow down in the final few metres and pull up your muscles. Hence, it becomes difficult to finish.”
Usha said she was open to sending Tintu abroad for training and learning better running techniques. “I will be very happy if she goes and trains abroad. Any kind of international exposure is good for her, she should do it,” she said.
Annu wins bronze
While Tintu’s silver was more or less on expected lines, Annu Rani’s bronze medal in women’s javelin throw came out of the blue. Annu recorded a personal best effort of 59.53m. She achieved the mark in her first attempt and led the field for a while before being overtaken by China’s Li Zhang and Lingwei Li, who won gold and silver respectively.
Annu’s first attempt proved to be her best. She said she aggravated an injury on her right ankle after the first throw, which affected her performance. However, she bettered her own record of 58.83m, which she had set in June this year during the Inter-State Championships in Lucknow.
Meanwhile, the biggest disappointment of the day at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium was Ashwini Akkunji, who failed to defend her women’s 400 metres hurdles title as she finished fourth. Ashwini, who had won gold in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay four years ago at Guangzhou, clocked 57.52 seconds to complete the lap. The gold went to Bahrain’s Oluwakemi Mujidat Adekoya (55.77), Japan’s Kubokura Satomi (56.21) won silver, while China’s Xiao Xia (56.59) took home the bronze.
Jithin Paul was disqualified from the men’s 400m hurdles final following a false start.