India will be represented by Lalita Babar in the final of the 3000m steeplechase event at the Rio Olympic Games after the 27-year old finished her Heat 2 of the event with a timing of 9:19.76, which was the 7th best overall in the qualification round held on Saturday.
The timing means that the Indian will be involved in the finals of the 3000m steeplechase event which will be held on 15th August, 2016.
Lalita Babar is the first track and field finalist for India since PT Usha had qualified in the 1984 Games.
What is the 3000m steeplechase event?
The 3000m steeplechase event is one of the track events organised at the Olympic Games and the World Championships in Athletics and is recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). There is an event for both men and women.
However, there are certain differences between the two events. The obstacles for men are 36 inches high whereas for the women it is 30 inches.
The event consists of four normal barriers to overcome for the runners along with one special water jump barrier. The special feature about the water jump barrier is that there is a pit of water that follows the normal barrier where the runner will make his/her landing.
This pit is 3.66 metres wide and 0.70 metres long and has a 28 inches slope which levels with the track as the runner moves forward.
The length of the race is usually 3000 metres which means the runners have to complete 7 and a half laps of the 400m running track. At the start of the race, the first fraction of the track does not have barriers but the next seven laps have 3 normal barriers and one water jump barrier.
At the Olympic Games, the runners are divided into three heats where the first three runners from each heat advance to the next round along with the next six fastest runners overall.
What does Lalita Babar need to do to win this event?
The Indian qualified for the final round with an excellent performance in the Heat 2 of the event where she finished with a timing of 9:19.76 and was ranked 7th overall. However, the runner did not finish inside the top-3 runners in her heat as she finished at 4th.
This means that there is extremely tough competition for the 27-year old if she wants to win a medal at Rio 2016.
Lalita will be facing 14 other runners in the final event and will have to finish in the top-3 to have a podium finish. But she will be matched by the likes of Kenya’s Hyvin Jepkemoi, Brunei’s Ruth Jebet, Ethopia’s Sofia Assefa and Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi. These four athletes are going to be the favourites to finish on the podium because of their recent performances and the experience they possess.
Jepkemoi finished her qualification round as the 10th fastest overall but was the fastest runner in her Heat 3. She has been considered as the favourite to win the gold medal ahead of the final but Jebet proved a point as she finished as the fastest runner in the qualification round with a timing of 9:12.62 which could not be matched by any other runner.
However, Ghribi and Assefa had finished as the silver and bronze medalists respectively at London 2012 and will have a point to prove in Rio.
Lalita Babar will need to be at her best if she has any chance of making it to the podium. Her timing of 9:19.76 was her season best but the 27-year old will need to better that by close to 10-15 seconds if she wants to compete for the medals.
The last gold medalist at the Games in London, Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova, had finished with a timing of 9:06.72. Therefore, it is important for the Indian to give herself the rest that is required before the finals.
Babar will need to work on her reaction timings at the start and will need to focus on keeping herself amongst the first three runners in the final round because making up for lost time in a competitive race is close to impossible for any runner.Published 13 Aug 2016, 23:14 IST