Indian athletes continued to shine at the Asian Athletics Championship which began in Bhubhaneshwar on Thursday. Sudha Singh struck gold in women’s 3000m steeplechase, marking a return for the 31 year-old Olympian and Arjuna award winner. The athlete from Uttar Pradesh won the race in 9 minute 59.47 seconds to open India’s medal tally at the packed Kalinga Stadium, adding to the silver medals she won in the 2013, 2011 and 2009 versions of the championships. She was expected to win gold in absence of compatriot Lalita Babar who is on a break after she got married and the world record holder in the even Ruth Jebet of Bahrain.
Sudha led throughout the race, and broke with the pack around the half way mark to claim the gold. After her win, she ran a victory lap to the applause of the stadium. Her return is especially impressive considering she got the swine flu when she got back from the Rio Olympics and had to take a break. The sub-10 minutes run is ominous as the athlete prepares for the World Championships in London(for which all gold medallists qualify automatically) that are stepping stones to an eventual Olympics spot in 2020.
“I am very happy to win this gold. This is my top level competition after Rio Olympics. I was down with swine flu after the Rio Olympics and I was down for five-six months and after that I started training slowly and steadily. So, this win is special. It is a slow timing but the conditions are not that good,” she said after her win.
“My coach told me not to hang around for long. He told me to break away from the rest and not wait for the final moment. That was what I did,” she added.
North Korea’s 18-year-old Hyo Gyong was a far second in 10:13.94 and Japan’s Nana Sato was third with a time of 10:18.11.