Missing out on an Olympic medal in 1984 Los Angeles Games by 1/100th of a second is something that PT Usha will never forget. But to make up for her unfinished dream, Usha is backing her protege Tintu Luka, the new 800m national record holder.
“She will make the cut for 2012 London Games and, mark my words, she is capable of winning a medal too,” Usha told DNA from New Delhi after returning from Split, Croatia, where Tintu broke the record.
Usha said this was one of the best races Tintu had run for sometime. “She made some mistakes in the previous race at Belgium (finished eighth) and rectified them in Split to get this performance,” explained Usha about Tintu’s fifth place performance in the IAAF Continental Cup in Croatia on Saturday night.
Tintu was leading through the first lap and held on to the lead till at about 50m to go when the big girls — former World champion Janeth Jepkosgei, Russia’s Indoor World champion Mariya Savinova and the world leader, American Alysia Johnson and UK’s Jennifer Meadows — went past her.
But Usha isn’t worried about her ward not winning a medal. “She has age by her side and with that she will peak on from here. Breaking the 2 minutes barrier will only boost her confidence,” said the Payyoli Express. Usha also said that Tintu is pretty new on the 800m international circuit, so too many expectations from her would be unfair.
The reason why the athletic legend from Kerala is backing Tintu to the hilt is because both have some parallels in their life before athletics. “I struggled my way through like she did, but was fiercely hard-working and so is Tintu,” said Usha. Usha felt that more of such international exposures will help Tintu in the long run.
She remembered how Tintu was an erratic runner when she joined PT Usha School of Athletics, Koyilandy (in Kerala), about nine years ago. “Her head, her hands, her legs all used to be so shaky, it looked like everything was out of place, and here she is now,” Usha said of her talented ward’s progress.
While the world record stands about five seconds quicker than Tintu’s best timing, Usha says that eyeing the world record isn’t the ultimate thing. “We (Indian athletes) are far from the world mark, but then it isn’t impossible to win medals, Tintu will prove it,” said the proud coach.
For the record, Tintu — who is supported by the Olympic Gold Quest — has bettered her best timing by seven seconds in the last three years. After timing 2:06.62 in her first competitive race in Jamshedpur in 2007, she bettered it by two seconds in the next year, timing 2:04.94 at Kochi. In 2009, she bettered her previous best by three seconds, timing 2:01.92 in Chennai. And now, she timed 1:59.17, to break Shiny Wilson’s 15-year-old national record of 1:59.85.