For former sprint queen, PT Usha, this is a pilgrimage, undertaken every four years. She has been a regular at the Asian Games since 1982, coming as an athlete and now as coach of India's “best hope” in 800m, Tintu Luka.
Life has turned a full circle for Usha — from being one of the most revered Indian athletes to becoming the coach of an athlete, touted as the best bet for the future.
“From 1982 till 1998, I came as a competitor and subsequently I have been coming in various capacities. This time, I've come with Tintu, who is one of the brightest prospects from my academy in Koyilandy (Kerala),” says Usha.
Tintu, on her part, impressed with the best time among the 800m finalists on Wednesday. She led from the start to win her heat comfortably in 2 minutes and 3.85 seconds and top the time charts among the finalists.
It was apt for Usha to praise her 20-year-old understudy. “Tintu is currently the national record holder. She has broken the long-standing record of Shiny Wilson and I am sure, she is a strong contender for gold here.
“At the last Asian Games in Doha, Tintu couldn't perform to potential, because of inexperience. But this time I expect gold from her,” she says.
“Tintu has a cent per cent chance given that she has a personal best of 1:59.17. If she comes close to it, she will win. Her nearest competitor, Jamaica's Maryam Yusuf Jamal, who will be competing for Bahrain here, has a time of 1:59.89, which means Tintu's is the best,” says Usha.
“It took Shiny 16 years to breach the two-minute mark, but Tintu has already done it. Her target is the Asian Games and the 2012 Olympic Games in London. In between, she will participate in 5-6 major events to get over stage fright,” says Usha.
“I know how Tintu is shaping up. I don't have to tell the world...I work silently,” she says.