A confident Tintu Luka looked forward to her debut in the Olympics as she went through her last practice session at home prior to her departure for London to join some of the other members of the Indian athletics squad already stationed there.
Tintu is part of a 11-member squad scheduled to leave for London on Saturday morning. The squad includes four walkers, Gurmeet Singh, Baljinder Singh, K. T. Irfan and Basanta Bahadur Rana, and woman high jumper Sahana Kumari apart from three coaches, Bahadur Singh (chief coach), P.T. Usha and R. Gandhi, a doctor (Dr Arun Mendiratta) and a manager (P. K. Jadam).
As she went through a 90-minute session on the rain-soaked Nehru Stadium track, watched by a couple of stadium securitymen and SAI officials, Usha also expressed the confidence that Tintu was ready to clock her life best in London.
That is what Usha herself had done in the Los Angeles Olympics, 28 years ago, missing the bronze in the 400m hurdles by a whisker.
“I am confident of clocking around 1:57 with the kind of training that I have had,” said Tintu, shy and reserved as always, but sounding more assured than ever before.
But the 800 is an unpredictable event. The best of plans can go awry as a race develops.
“She should clock below 1:59,” said Usha. “Can’t she expect a place in the final with that kind of timing?” she said.
“She is physically very fit right now; she requires a little more mental preparation,” Usha said. “If only she had a few more competitions this season.”
Tintu has a career-best 1:59.17 clocked in Split, Croatia, in September, 2010. She only has a season best 2:01.09.
Her splits were better than what they were when she clocked her best in Split, during her last phase of training at the Infosys campus in Mysore, according to Usha.
She was doing her final 200 in around 27.5s compared to 29.0s in 2010. Her 600m split was 1:26.2 compared to her previous 1:27.6.
She might try a faster 600 in London in training. Her event begins only on August 8.
Making the final will be hard for Tintu, however. At the last World championships in Daegu, the poorest qualifier into the final, from the three semifinals, clocked 1:58.93. At the last Olympics the corresponding timing was 1:58.28.
Of course timings alone will not count. Forty-one runners have cracked two minutes this season, with the defending Olympic champion and favourite Pamela Jelimo of Kenya at 1:56.76.