By Debdoot Das
KOLKATA– Indian long distance runner Lalita Babar believes athletes can win medals only if they are given the best of facilities to train on.
“For your athlete to win an Olympic medal, you ought to give the best facilities,” Babar told IANS in an interview.
She complained that there are only a few synthetic tracks in the country and none of them is of world class. Along with other long distance runners like O.P. Jaisha and Sudha Singh, Babar runs on roads to train.
“You see, most of my records have been made outside India, the facilities outside are really much better. It enhances our performances. Here we do not have proper training tracks, neither do we have many synthetic tracks. Here we practice by running on roads.”
“Where are the competition tracks here? Those which are here are not up to the international standards, the one we will get in Rio. But then again, we have to work within the facilities being provided to us,” she said.
Her gold medal in steeplechase at the Asian Championships in Wuhan this year helped her comfortably qualify for the Olympics at Rio. But, the 26-year-old would have gone to Rio otherwise too. She clocked her personal best in the Mumbai marathon, 2 hours 38 minutes and 21 seconds on January 18, which offered her a place in the long-distance event.
Asked how she was preparing for the mega event in 2016, Babar said: “I train about six hours a day. Morning, I start from about 4.30 a.m. But nowadays, as the winter has set in, I start from five o’clock. And then we run in the evening. We have these medium and long runs. Sundays we usually go for the long run which is about 30 to 40 kilometres. So, I cover around 170-180 kilometres every week.”
Babar, who is training in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, said she is trying to better her timing with each passing day and is hopeful of grabbing a medal at the Olympics next year.
“The thing is to give in my best and do well. I am practising really hard to reduce the timings as much as possible. I am really hoping that this time I will be able to get a medal for the country. My aim is to get under 9:10, 9:15 and that is what I am trying to do in steeplechase,” she said.
“The time I am getting to prepare I am utilising it to the full. I am running in a few races here so that I am in the best possible shape when I get to Rio.”
The trio of Jaisa, Singh and Babar have for the last few years been training under Belarussian coach Nikolai Snesarev, who Babar believes has helped them improve their techniques.
“He is very disciplined. And he makes sure we are too. He does scold me a lot too, but then it is for my benefit. He gives me little insights one needs to know before going into a race and that helps me perform better. He has also helped us improve our technique,” she said.
A few days back, Snesarev was livid that the Railways were asking the trio to participate in a cross-country race just days before the all-important Mumbai marathon where athletes come from all over the world.
Speaking about the incident, the athlete, who hails from Satara district of Maharastra, said: “The coach will decide (whether they will compete in the cross-country race in Pune). But it is difficult to run at two back to back events in a space of a week. There’s a lot of pressure and exertion put on the body. We are not machines, even we need rest. How will we run on the 10th and then again on the 17th (Mumbai marathon)?,” she said.
Babar added that she was looking forward to the Mumbai marathon as she would get to compete against the best in the business.
“I am looking forward to the Mumbai Marathon. It is an international competition and we will get to run with some of the best athletes in the world, which will be a great experience. Thereafter, I want to concentrate on my event, steeplechase,” she said.