India's reigning Asian champion and record-breaking 800m national champion Tintu Luka is on a high having clocked her season's best 2:00.61 to win a silver at the Josef Odlozil Memorial Athletics Meet in Prague in Czech Republic earlier this month. Luka represented India at the 2012 London Olympics, but crashed and burned towards the end of her semi-final race, just as she did last year at the World Athletics Championship in Beijing.
India's Tintu Luka (left) competes in the 800m event at the 2014 CWG in Glasgow. Pic/Getty Images
However, the 27-year-old, under the tutelage of former India sprint queen PT Usha at the Usha School of Athletics in Kerala, has been working on her physical strength and endurance levels. And in an interview with mid-day, she exuded confidence in conquering the last few metres a lot stronger at the upcoming Rio Olympics.
On her season build-up:
After winning the gold last June at the Asian Athletics Championship in Wuhan, China, I took a break for a week and went back to my hometown of Kannur (Kerala). I began off-season training with my guru PT Usha and followed it up with some tough seashore training at Payyoli Beach. In January this year, I completed my training at the Usha School of Athletics and then won gold (2.02.83s) at the Senior Federation Cup meet in Delhi. I then clocked my season's best in Prague. From July I will be competing in another 4-5 tournaments in the European circuit to gain full confidence before the Olympics.
On training changes keeping Rio in mind:
Normally, we start off with endurance training. However, this time we added some more training methods dedicated towards maintaining strength and speed as well. Now, I have managed to build my endurance and strength up to even the last few meters in the 800m race. We are also starting with a special endurance plus speed session this week.
On her poor show at 2010 Delhi CWG:
During the Delhi Commonwealth Games, I was extremely nervous and ended up finishing 6th. From that race onwards, I've decided never to bother myself with winning or losing — my concentration is solely on bettering my timing. I have been practicing athletic yoga, designed especially for me by my guru (PT Usha), and I'm confident of conquering my nerves before, during and after any race now.
On her semi-final loss at London 2012:
There's something I'd like to bring to your notice about the London Olympics, in which I finished 11th. The three Russian runners, who finished ahead of me, were tested positive from the year 2011 onwards. So, during the London Olympics, those Russians ran under the influence of drugs. If they were caught then itself, I would have made it to the final. And at the final, anything can happen — I may have a won a medal then.
On her upcoming challenge in Rio:
The semi-final is the toughest race of the competition because 24 athletes who compete in the semis strive extremely hard to get into the final (last eight So, that (semi-final) will be the true acid test for me. Once I qualify for the final, that day will be for my guru and my country.