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Sudha Singh takes aim at Tokyo 2020 after Rio Olympics heartbreak

Sudha Singh, who finished second in the Elite Indian category of the Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday, has her sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

other sports Updated: Nov 19, 2017 17:08 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sudha Singh,Delhi Half Marathon,Rio Olympics
Sudha Singh (R) finished second at the Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday.(HT Photo)

Olympian Sudha Singh is the flag-bearer in the 3,000m steeplechase, inspiring many young girls to take up the tough event. On Sunday, the seasoned runner came second in the Delhi half marathon in the Elite Indian category, but her focus was on altitude.

Sudha Singh’s personal best of 1 hour, 11 min, 30 seconds wasn’t enough for her to win, despite arriving from altitude training in Dharamsala. “Wish we were training in Ooty (far higher altitude). I would have clocked 1:09,” she bemoaned. Winner L Suriya clocked 1:10:31.

“Given the fact I am still logging huge weekly mileage, sometimes it’s over 250km a week, the performance has been good,” she said. “On the basis of endurance training I have had, I have achieved a good result. It will pay off during the main competition season.”

However, the real high Sudha seeks is three years away – Tokyo 2020.

For now, the targets are a touch more modest. The two major events lined up in 2018 are the Commonwealth Games in April and Asian Games in August.

But Sudha has unfinished agenda in the Olympics.

READ | Almaz Ayana wins Delhi Half Marathon on debut, Legese regains men’s title

“Missing the final of the 3000m steeplechase at the 2016 Rio Games still haunts me. I am determined to showcase my talent at a bigger stage, at the global level,” the 31-year-old from Rae Bareli told Hindustan Times.

Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar were India’s hopes in steeplechase at Rio. However, Sudha tripped during the heats, losing rhythm to ultimately miss out on a place in the final. Lalita Babar qualified from the other heat and finished tenth in the final, a first by an Indian woman athlete.

“I was well prepared in Rio, but I was unlucky. I want to make amends for that,” she said.

Talking of Olympics, Sudha has set small goals for herself. After Delhi, her next target is the Mumbai marathon in January.

How can running the marathon just three months before the Commonwealth Games help tackle the steeplechase in Australia? The UP runner says, at the end of the road racing season, a competitive 42km will improve her mental strength. And she wants to race fast.

READ | Marathon high: India’s road running culture spawns big business

Switching to track

After the Mumbai marathon, the plan is to gradually switch to track races. She will devote February to speed work with a major track event – Federation Cup -- scheduled in the first week of March at Patiala. It will be a qualifying event for the CWG. “It will give me a chance to evaluate my performance,” she said.

Her other target is to post 9:15 for the 3000m steeplechase and break Lalita’s national mark of 9:19 set in Rio. Sudha’s personal best is 9:26 and she believes clipping nine seconds is within reach. “The race has become more challenging these days. And I am training to mould myself to a faster rhythm.”

For 2019, her main target will be the World Athletics Championships in Doha. She has become conscious of the entry standard after being left out for the London World Championships this year despite winning gold at the Asian Championships.

By the time she competes in Doha, Sudha believes she will be in a position to compete with the world’s best. “I want to set a benchmark for the generation next. That is the only way to signing off in style in 2020 (sic),” she said, before heading back to her training base in Dharamsala.

First Published: Nov 19, 2017 17:08 IST