Nashik: Indian long-distance runner Kavita Raut, a Nashik girl, yesterday qualified for the Rio Olympics in women's marathon after winning gold at the 12th South Asian Games in Guwahati.
Kavita Raut poses with SAG gold medal yesterday. Pic/PTI
Thirty-year-old Raut easily clinched the marathon gold in two hours, 38 minutes, 38 seconds to become the fourth Indian woman after OP Jaisha, Lalita Babbar and Sudha Singh to qualify for the women's marathon in Rio.
"It's a dream come true and I'm very, very happy. I missed this chance in 2012, but grabbed it today," said an overwhelmed Raut.
"After my marriage (in April 2013), a series of poor performances followed and I thought of quitting the sport. However, my coach Vijender Singh insisted that I continue," added Raut, who did not do well at this edition of the Mumbai Marathon (January 17), finishing a distant fifth, clocking 2 hours, 49 minutes.
"My father-in-law met with an accident recently and his hospitalisation and then home care, have kept me busy. The climate here in Guwahati was cold and suited me perfectly. Frankly speaking, I was not expecting to clock such a good time but when the 5000m and 10000m runners from India performed well here and clinched the first two spots in both categories, I knew I had the chance of a gold. I'll now be putting all my effort into performing well at Rio," added Kavita, who is the only athlete to have qualified for Rio from the ongoing SAG.
Kavita's coach Vijender was equally elated. "Today is my birthday and I couldn't have asked for a better gift. I spoke to her this morning (5 am), two hours before the marathon, and she sounded composed. ," said Vijender, who was also grateful to Kavita's employers ONGC for allowing her to train under him for the last year and a half.
"The last 18 months were a bad phase in her career. She fought injuries and poor performances and was not in the best state of mind. But she trained very hard and has earned this success. She will definitely do well in Rio," Vijender signed off.