It is not often that a national record in athletics falls within a fortnight of it being bettered. Two weeks ago, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, Lalita Babar broke her own national record on way to winnings gold at the Federation Cup. Sudha, her training partner, finished second but the timing was good enough to allow her to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Babar clocked 9:27.09 while Sudha was second at 9:31.86.
On Saturday, Sudha proved that she is not happy to just qualify but has the potential to further improve in the run-up to the Rio Games. Sudha shattered the national record in women’s 3000m steeplechase event to finish eighth in the second leg of the prestigious Diamond League Meet in Sanghai.
She clocked 9 minute 26.55 seconds to better the earlier national record. However, Babar was not at her best as she finished 13th, five places below Sudha and registered a disappointing timing of 9:43.30 among the 14 who finished the race. Babar, who had finished a creditable eighth at the World Athletics Championships last year, had won a silver at the 2014 Incheon Games and gold at the Asian Championships in Wuhan. Sudha won the gold at the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.
Both the women are coached by Belarusian Nikolai Snesarev, who is known to be a tough task master.
The 2015 World Championships gold-medallist Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi of Kenya won in a personal best timing of 9:07.42 while 2014 Asian Games champion, Kenya-born Bahrain athlete Ruth Jebet finished second in a new continental record timing of 9:15.98. 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist Assefa Sofia of Ethiopia was third.