The perseverance and self-belief that she had shown right through has been one of the major hallmarks in the career of long distance ace Preeja Sreedharan.
And the doughty 2010 Asian Games gold medallist is now looking forward to the London Olympics, hopeful of making the cut within the next two months.
Preeja, who had been away through the last 75 days at Eldoret in Kenya, training alongside Kavita Raut, O.P. Jaisha and Sudha Singh, is now back in her hometown Palakkad on a short break.
“The stint in Kenya was particularly good, and of immense help for my Olympic preparations.
“Though we were concentrating on our off-season training, with an equal mix of road and track work, I feel confident of making the qualifying standard either in April or May as we are now scheduled to move over to Europe shortly,” Preeja told The Hindu on Wednesday.
Asked about news regarding her health and a reported bout of typhoid during her stay in Kenya, Preeja said that she was out of action only for three days.
“Fortunately, I recovered very quickly and was able to return to training after three days. Soon after that, I was put through a battery of tests in Eldoret itself and they found nothing wrong.
I am completely fine now and hope to do my best for the country in London.”
Preeja, who will turn 30 on March 13 this year, also confirmed that she would be attempting to qualify only for the 10,000m — the event in which she was placed 25 at the 2008 Beijing Games.
“I have always been comfortable running the 10,000m rather than the 5,000m. And the qualifying timings of 31:45.00 (A standard) and 32.10.00 (B standard) are well within my reach.
“I hope to make the A standard and qualify, though it would mean that I would have to clock my career best time, which now stands at 31:50.47 (the timing she clocked to win the gold medal in Guangzhou)”, she said.
The Kerala athlete and the others will be returning to Eldoret before moving over to Europe.
“Though I am yet to be told of the details including the competitions in which we would be taking part, we are likely to return to Kenya sometime around February 26 and stay there for another month before flying out to Italy, which will remain our base until the London Games.
And then, I think that we would also have a training stint in France in between.”
Preeja was also full of praise of the Government for the help extended to her and fellow runners in preparing for the Olympics.
“Now there seems to be a plan in place.
“The Union Government and the Sports Authority of India have been very supportive to all of us, all along.
“ Once my former coach Nikolai (Snesarev) left soon after the Guangzhou Asian Games, I thought it was the end of the road for me and the others.
“ But as part of the London preparations, we now have a new coach from Italy, Claudio (Berardelli), who has had the experience of moulding many of the famous Kenyan runners. It is under his guidance that we have all been practising now through the last two-and-a-half months.”
The year, besides the London Games, is also certain to be a memorable year for the soft-spoken athlete.
The house-warming ceremony of her new home is expected to take place soon after the Olympics, and her wedding in the first week of November.
“I will let you know of both after my return from London. Or else, that would be the headlines tomorrow,” Preeja giggled.