Kolkata: Having made history at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last month, 3000m steeplechase national record holder Lalita Babar hopes to raise the bar in next year's Olympics.
Lalita Babar. Pic/AFP
The 26-year-old from Maharashtra smashed her own national record by clocking 9:27.86 seconds in the semifinals also of the Beijing meet before finishing eighth in the final. In a recovery phase, Lalita is targeting to cut off 13 seconds before Rio approaches, something that may put her in top five, if not medal contention.
"It's very very tough and I'm doing my best. Getting a medal is possible and you never know," the Railways athlete told PTI on the sidelines of a training session at the SAI Complex ahead of the 55th National Open Athletics Championships beginning tonight.
Targeting an Olympic medal from athletics may still be a dream but Lalita says she has benefited a lot from her Beijing experience. "The world meet experience counts a lot and I don't want to let go my performance in vain as I look to keep on improving," Lalita, who has broken three national records in two years, said.
"From these big meets, you learn the strategies. It's not just about running but to pace your run as per the challenges. I'm more confident now." Hailing from Mohi village of Maharashtra, the humble long distance runner once struggled to buy running spikes for her. "Things have changed now, I'm now adequately supported by
my state, unit (Railways) and the government," she said.
It's been just a fortnight since her recording-breaking run in Beijing but that has not stopped her from coming for the Nationals as she says it's payback time for the Railways employee. "We don't have to go to duties and remain in the national camp through out the year yet they (Railways) keep on supporting us. It's about giving something back to my department and I'm looking forward to make Railways proud," she said.
While Lalita is the favourite, she will have competition in her Railways teammate Sudha Singh in her event on September 18. "We should do well. It's about winning for Railways but at the same time we have to be cautious of injuries and have to take it easy," Lalita signed off.