India's reigning Asian Games champion, Sudha Singh, secured a London Olympic Games ticket by cracking the Olympic 'B' standard mark in 3000m steeplechase at the Iberoamericano de Atletismo Championship at Huelva (Spain) on Friday.
The Uttar Pradesh runner also improved her national record of 9:49.25 sec by completing the race in 9:47.70 seconds and finishing 11th in a field of 22 competitors. The Olympics 'B' standard mark stands at 9:48.
Ethiopia's Etenesh Diro, who timed 9:21.54, was an easy winner, leading the race from start to finish.
During the Shanghai Diamond League in May, Sudha had narrowly missed the Olympic cut, clocking 9:49.25 seconds.
Speaking to Hindustan Times from Huelva, Sudha, who has been training with world-renowned distance coach, Claudio Berardelli, for the past five months along with Kavita Raut, Preeja Sreedharan and OP Jaisha, said she was hopeful of further improving her time. "I can clip a few more seconds."
After a three-month high-altitude training stint in Eldoret (Kenya), Sudha had shifted base to Italy.
The 25-year-old railway employee is expected to compete in a couple of more races to further polish her hurdling and water-jumping skills in Europe before returning to India.
Speaking about Sudha's Olympic preparations from now on, coach JS Bhatia, said, "We still have seven-eight weeks to train for the big day. With more training sessions over water barriers and speed drills on the track, she will emerge a more polished runner."
In the past five years, Sudha, who hails from Rae Bareli in UP, has improved the national record at least seven times.
In 2010, she was crowned the Asian Games champion in Guangzhou.
Sudha's father, Hari Narain, attributes her daughter's success to perseverance. "She is not into the habit of quitting," said an elated Narain.
India's leading 1,500m runner OP Jaisha's London participation is doubtful as she is yet to recover from a foot injury, with less than a month to go for the Olympic qualification event.
According to Jaisha's husband, Gurmeet Singh, she is currently undergoing rehabilitation in Italy.
Though Jaisha is yet to run a race this season, Gurmeet, who has been coaching her for the last two years in Ludhiana, said, she would return to the track by the end of this month.
Despite athletics coach Bhatia coordinating with Italian experts on the Indian runners' progress, the Sports Authority of India, on the recommendations of the Athletics Federation of India, is sending another coach, Renu Kohli, to oversee training in Italy.
Mayookha wins title
India's leading jumper Mayookha Johny recorded 6.60m to win the long jump title at an international competition in Rhede, Germany. She, however, missed the Olympic qualification by five cm. She has already achieved London berth in triple jump.