New Delhi: Rising Indian middle distance runner Tintu Luka shattered the 15-year-old women’s 800m national record as she clocked 1:59.17 to finish a creditable fifth in the VTB Bank Continental Cup in Split, Croatia.
The 21-year-old, who was representing Asia Pacific in the top-flight IAAF competition which was earlier known as the World Cup of athletics, bettered the earlier national mark of 1:59.85 which was in the name of Shiny Wilson since 1995, one of the oldest records in Indian athletics.
Only eight athletes took part in the race in Croatia – season’s top two each from four continental groupings – Asia Pacific, Americas, Africa and Europe. Luka, a protege of legendary athlete P T Usha, was the leading athlete in Asia this season.
Former world champion and Beijing Olympics silver medallist Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei of Kenya, representing Africa, won the race in 1:57.88, while 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica (representing Americas) was second in 1:58.16.
World Indoor and European champion Mariya Savinova of Russia was third in 1:58.27 while World Championships bronze medallist Jennifer Meadows of Great Britain was fourth in 1:58.88.
Luka, who was richer by USD 5,000 besides earning five points for her Asia Pacific team, led the field in the first lap of 400m with 58.04sec but failed to give the final flourish against her more experienced competitors at Poljud Stadium last night.
She though had the satisfaction of finishing ahead of Zehra Bouras of Algeria (1:59.61), fellow Asia Pacific team-mate Nikki Hamblin (1:59.66) and season’s world leader Alysia Johnson of United States (2:01.83).
This was Luka’s first sub-two-minute performance in her career, bettering her earlier personal best of 2:00.79 which she set while finishing eighth in the final leg of the Diamond League series in Brussels, Belgium on September 24.
The fifth-place finish will be a morale-booster for Luka ahead of next month’s Commonwealth Games here with her new record timing putting her in sixth place among athletes from Commonwealth nations, ahead of South African world champion Caster Semenya whose best this season was 1:59.65.
Busienei and Sinclair are expected to compete against Luka in the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games while Meadows has pulled out of.