The “queen of Indian track and field”, P.T.Usha missed out on a medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics only because she was not 1/100th of a second faster than her closest competitor. Twenty-eight years later, she is leaving no stone unturned in backing her protege, Tintu Luka, to the hilt, and hoping that the she fulfills her ambitions of bringing India an Olympic medal in athletics.
Daughter of a mason and born in Kannur, Kerala, Luka is a bright hope for Indian athletics in the years to come. She set a new national record of 1:59.17 in the women’s 800m, approximately 6 seconds shy of the world record, at the IAAF Continental Cup in Croatia,2010, breaking the 15 year old national record of the legendary Shiny Wilson. She has been training at Usha’s School of Athletics for almost eleven years now.
Luka missed out on a medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Delhi finishing sixth. Usha said that Luka could not cope with the heavy cheering from the home crowd, and did not plan her run well. Luka proved her critics wrong by winning bronze at the Guangzhou Asian Games weeks later. She could have got the coveted yellow metal but fell behind in the dying moments of the race. People are hoping she goes all the way this time.
Usha has backed her time and again, and has even mentioned certain similarities between the two. “I struggled my way through like she did, but was fiercely hard-working and so is Tintu,” said the Payyoli Express. Usha remembered how Tintu was not a confident runner when she first came to Usha’s School of Athletics. She used to run awkwardly and seemed to go off the track often.“Her head, her hands, her legs all used to be so shaky, it looked like everything was out of place, and here she is now,” Usha said of her protege. She should be given some time to settle on the international front, and not dismissed instantly if her performances are not up to the mark because she is very young, and new to the 800m international circuit, and has a lot of years in her. She should be groomed properly, or else she will be another failed athlete who lost out due to excessive media hype.
Luka is one of the athletes being supported by the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), and judging by the track record of OGQ-backed athletes at the 2012 Games (Mary Kom, Vijay Kumar, Gagan Narang and Saina Nehwal are all OGQ proteges), there would appear to be more than one reason to be optimistic about her chances.
When the 800m qualification starts tomorrow, Tintu Luka is going to perform with all she has, and it is sincerely hoped that after all the fights and struggles that she has faced in her life till date, she gets a reward for her efforts – an Olympic medal, which will end India’s 100-year drought in the field of athletics.