Tintu Luka entered the women’s 800 metres semifinals at the Olympic Games by finishing third in her heat in 2:01.75 seconds.
In a heat won by world champion Mariya Savinova of Russia in 2:01.56, Tintu had to work hard towards the finish to get among the top three that ensured an automatic qualification into the next round.
Tintu was just ahead of Malika Akkaoui, who was just three-hundredth of a second behind. The Moroccan squeezed into the next round as one of the six “fastest losers” from the six first-round heats. “I am happy she did it without going all out. That was the plan and she did that. Even if she had not got the third, she would have gone through on timing,” said Tintu’s coach P.T. Usha.
Also through to the semifinals, to be run in three heats on Thursday, were defending champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya (2:00.54), teammate Janeth Jepkosgei (2:01.04) and Caster Semenya of South Africa (2:00.71), who came second in Heat 1 behind Anerican Alysia Montano (2:00.47).
One of the strong medal contenders, Fantu Magiso of Ethiopia, withdrew from the heats, providing a big surprise. The 20-year-old Ethiopian had defeated a star-studded field in the Golden Gala in Rome last May to project herself as one of the closest challengers to Jelimo.