Lalita Babar did herself and the country proud as she made it to the final of the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the Olympic stadium on Saturday.
The 27-year-old made the grade as one of the fastest losers after finishing fourth in her heat, dominated by Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech.
Drawn in the second of the three heats, Satara-born athlete kept herself with the lead bunch of American Emma Coburn and Tunisian Habiba Chribi right through the seven-and-a-half lap race and was well within position to gain a direct entry before Beatrice came around from behind and overtook the trio into the home bend.
Babar was thus pushed to the fourth spot but nevertheless her timing of 9:19.76 — which now constitutes a new National record — was good enough to be ranked seventh and ensure for her a place in the final tobe held Monday, August 15.
Sudha Singh, the Guangzhou Asian Games gold medallist, the second Indian entrant in the fray, however, proved to be a failure as she could finish a poor ninth in Heat 3 in 9:43.29 and found herself to be eliminated.
The Indian agony continued further in the women’s 400m as Nirmala Sheoran came a cropper with a below par performance in Heat 1 of the event.
The Indian quartermiler who posted a blistering 51.48s to make the Olympic cut last month, hardly looked to be in focus to repeat the feat as she crossed the finish sixth among seven starters in a poor time of 53.03s.
On Friday, Manish Singh Rawat was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dull outing for Indian athletes.
The 25-year-old Rawat, a constable from Uttarakhand, finished 13th with a time of 1 hour 21 minutes and 12 seconds in a field of 74 in men’s 20-kilometre walk, reminding the tenth place that K.T. Irfan had achieved in the same event in the London Olympics.
Rawat had clocked 1:22:50 in qualifying for the Olympics in April last year and had reached 1:20:50 this season. He was also doing the 50 kilometre events before focusing on shorter distance for the Olympics.
The Chinese took the gold and silver more than two minutes ahead, as Wang Zhen (1:19:14) and Cai Zelin (1:19:26) topped the medals ahead of Dane Bird-Smith of Australia who had a season best 1:19:37.
K. Ganapathi and Gurmeet Singh were disqualified, which is a regular feature in walking, as the athletes tend to make technical errors in their pursuit of speed.Ankit disappoints
Ankit Sharma who had kindled hopes of an improbable Indian athletics medal in Olympics, with jumps of 8.19, 8.17 and 8.14 metres in Kazakhstan, making a mincemeat of the national record of 8.09 held by Kumaravel Premkumar, could jump only 7.67 metres as he placed 24th overall among 30.
After two foul jumps, the 24-yar-old Ankit registered the only valid jump of 7.67, which was his worst in recent times. He had won the National Games with 8.04 metres, and had jumped 7.76 in the Asian championship in Wuhan.
While Wang Jianan of China topped the qualifers with 8.24 metres, the last spot went to Damar Forbes of Jamaica who jumped 7.85 metres.
In the women’s 100 metres, Dutee Chand clocked 11.69 seconds as against a string of top times like 11.24 in Kazakhstan that fetched her the Olympic entry, and 11.33 in the Fed Cup that saw her break the National record of 11.38 held by Rachita Mistry, the last Indian to qualify for the Olympics in 100 metres.
The 20-year-old Dutee, who had revolutionised world athletics by successfully fighting the hyperandrogenism case in the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS), was 50th among the 64 athletes in the 100 metres, topped by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica at 10.96.
In men’s 400 metres, Muhammed Anas clocked 45.95 seconds as he placed sixth in his race and 31st overall from among 50. In his defence, it could be said that one of the qualification spots went at 45.91, four hundredths of a second better, even though the fact remained that he was far away from 45.54 that clinched the berths for the fastest losers.