Road to Rio: Tintu Luka, India's best bet to end athletics medal wait at Olympics
Having failed to reach the final in the 2012 London Olympics, Tintu Luka will be keen to go at least one step better and reach the final of the Women's 800m event at Rio Olympics 2016
Name: Tintu Luka
Discipline (sport): Athletics
Category: Women's 800m
Qualification: Tintu Luka clocked her season's best of 2:00.95 to finish seventh in the first of the six heats at the 2015 World Athletics Championship, crossing the Rio Olympics qualification time of 2:01.00.
Strengths: Gifted with speed, Tintu Luka has now added endurance to her sprint. Tintu who used to be criticised for failing to sustain herself through the length of the race, has overcome that by her own admission.
Past Olympic performance: Reached the semi-finals of the Women's 800m event at the 2012 London Olympics, finishing sixth and failing to qualify for the final.
Past record (best performances in Women's 800m event): Gold medal at the 2015 Asian Athletics Championships in Wuhan
Silver medal at the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon
Bronze medal at the 2010 Asian Games at Guangzhou
Bronze medal at the 2013 Asian Athletics Championships in Pune
Bronze medal at 2011 Asian Athletics Championship in Kobe
Rio Prospects: Having failed to reach the final in the 2012 London Olympics, Tintu will be keen to advance at least one step further and has the ability to make it to the final eight of the Women's 800m event at Rio Olympics 2016.
Tintu Luka was born in Valathode, a small village in Kannur district of Kerala, a state renowned for producing several of India's top performers in athletics, most notable being PT USha, who is also Tintu's personal coach.
Preparing for her second straight Olympic Games, where she would be India's solitary representative in the Women's 800m category, Tintu has done a lot to get her name on that list of Kerala-born athletes.
Tintu does come from a sporting background, her mother Lissy was a state-level long jumper. However, Tintu didn't decide to follow her mother and chose athletics instead. Since then she has taken huge leaps as a sprinter.
She completed her education from St Thomas High School in Karikkottakary, and joined the PT Usha School of Athletics at Koyilandy and started training under her guidance in 2001. Strength, speed and endurance was a part of the daily agenda for young Tintu who had to walk five km on a hilly terrain to make it to her school, according to a report by NDTV.
Her hard work bore fruits in 2008 when she bagged a silver medal at the Junior Asian Athletics Championships, two years before she broke Shiny Wilson’s 15-year-old national record in women’s 800m at the Continental Cup in Croatia when she timed 1:59:17. Since then, Tintu has won five medals in the 800m event at Asian Games and Asian Championships through the course of her career.
However, there have also been disappointments in her path as she failed to impress at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which was held at home in Delhi, and the 2012 London Olympics.
Under the tutelage of the great PT Usha, Tintu is working harder than before to eliminate the flaws in her game and become the first Indian to win a track and field Olympic medal. Her mentor Usha, who missed at medal at 1984 Olympics by a whisker, has backed Tintu to be the athlete to put an end to this long wait.
"I want her to win the medal. But, I am not going to predict that she would do so. Firstly, she lacks in international exposure. On top of that, these days, an athlete has to be mindful of various other aspects such as banned substances, dope tests etc. All of these would have to be factored in. We try to keep her free from stress. We do not talk about Olympic medals with her," Usha had said.
Tintu is sure to be thinking of one though, and won't be willing to settle for anything less in what is perhaps her best chance for an Olympic medal. However, a place in the final and a good showing at Rio will be considered a fine return from the 27-year-old athlete.
With inputs from agencies
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