Pune: Crossing the hurdles isn’t a new thing for Lalita Babar, but this Satara born steeplechase athlete wants to keep no stone unturned in pursuit of a better show at Tokyo 2020 Games.
Lalita may not have succeeded in winning a medal at the Rio Olympics but she says she has come back rich in experience and exposure that will stay with her for years and will prove helpful in the year 2020, when she hopes to again represent her country in the Olympics.
“I’m fairly satisfied with my performance at the Rio Games, but for an athlete, there’s always a scope for improvement,” Lalita quipped during her visit to Sakal office on Tuesday.
Lalita gave her best shot at the Games and qualified for the women’s 3000m steeplechase with a new national record of 9 minutes 19.76 seconds. She finished commendable 10th in the final.
Born to modest farmers in rural Maharashtra, Babar has seen a steady rise. Her latest national record — she improved by 7 seconds — came exactly a year after she raised the bar in a fifth national mark at the World Championships last August.
As a youngster, she ran — not walked — four kilometres every day to her school and back, she ran to faraway wells to fetch water for her family. She ran barefoot and on all kinds of roads.
“The fact that I got an opportunity to run alongside world’s best athletes, means a lot to me as one gets to learn so much by just observing them. This is something I dreamt as a kid,” Lalita gushes.
Trained by Nikolai Snesarev, known for his strict discipline, Lalita emulated PT Usha by entering the final in her event with a super performance.
The lanky Lalita became the first Indian to reach the final of a track event at the Olympics after a long hiatus of 32 years.
Lalita is happy that two Indian sportswomen were able to win medals for the country – Sakshi Malik in wrestling and PV Sindhu in badminton. “It feels great to see Indian women excelling in all the fields, including sports,” she said.
Better tourney calendar
Lalita acknowledged that her preparations for the Rio Games were hampered by the Zika Virus threat as she had to cancel plans for two preparatory events in the United States. However, she vowed to rectify the calendar for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Credit to Govt for support
Unlike the recent trend, Lalita seemed to appreciate the efforts taken by the Sports Ministry and the Sports Association of India (SAI) for their unwavering support for the 118-strong Indian contingent in Rio de Janeiro.
Lalita, who was felicitated by Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis on Monday, was greeted by tamasha (folk dance) artists from her hometown of Maan in Satara district.
Lauding her achievements, Fadnavis offered all support and cooperation to Babar and even announced that the 27-year-old athlete from Satara would be given a government job.
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