Kolkata, Feb 7 (IANS) Ending all speculation, Indian long distance runner Sudha Singh has said she will compete in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics in August.
Sudha won the Tata Steel 25 km run held here in December and finished seventh in the recent Mumbai marathon ahead of her compatriots Lalita Babar and O.P Jaisha.
There were reports that she was displeased with coach Nikolai Snesarev’s decision of making her concentrate on marathon instead of her favoured 3,000 metres steeplechase.
“I will run the marathon in Rio. So my focus is on it. I have been doing well in the last few that I have taken part in and I am prepared for it,” Sudha told IANS over phone from Ooty in Tamil Nadu.
She qualified for the marathon in Olympics when she clocked 2:35:35 in the World Championships in China last year. Though she finished 19th then, Sudha says she is hoping for a better show at Rio.
“I don’t know if I will be winning a medal. It will be tough. But I have improved from last year and hopefully I will do well there (Rio).”
The athlete, who hails from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, is also a former national 3,000 metres steeplechase record holder and says the event is still close to her heart.
“I have been training for the 3,000m steeplechase too. Though I have not qualified for the Olympics yet, I am sure I will do it when competitions start in April,” she said.
“I started my career with steeplechase. So I want to keep on getting better at it.”
Asked about her training regime, Sudha said: “I start early morning and practice for about three-and-a-half hours. In the evening, I train for two or two-and-a-half hours. I run about 270 km every week.”
When IANS spoke to fellow long-distance runner Lalita Babar a few weeks back, she complained about the training facilities provided to the athletes but Sudha said she “was happy” with whatever infrastructure was available.
“The facilities have developed in the last few years. I am happy with whatever we have right now. For me it is about focusing on the job and not think about what is there and not there,” she said.
The gold medal winner in 2010 Asian Games also heaped praise on coach Snesarev, saying he has helped her mature as an athlete.
“He has helped me grow. He helped me to move ahead. For him discipline is everything. I try and follow everything he says and now I am reaping rewards for it,” she said.
Sudha added: “I gained a lot of experience from the Mumbai marathon. I had to run against some of the world’s best and there I finished seventh. It was a great experience.”
(Debdoot Das can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)