New Delhi: Keen to make an impression a year after her doping ban ended in July 2013, India`s premier athlete Ashwini Akkunji is eyeing a medal in the individual 400 meter hurdle at the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Ashwini failed to bag a medal in the individual 400m hurdle at the 2010 Delhi edition of Games.
"I will try my level best to win a medal and possibly a gold in the individual event that I will be competing in. The competition this time is harder but my timing has been good," Ashwini told PTI.
In the 54th National Inter-State Athletics Championships, Ashwini was in excellent form as she excelled in 400m hurdles with a new meet record of 57.43 seconds in sweltering Lucknow heat (45 degrees celsius). Her new timing erased Jauna Murmu`s four-year-old mark by three-hundredth of a second.
Ashwini said although she and other athletes have been practicing hard, they lack international exposure.
"We have practiced hard and our preparation has been good but we lack international exposure. I personally believe that participating in more and more international events augers well for any athlete and that`s what gives them a winning edge," said the 5`9" athlete.
A CWG gold medallist in the 4x400m relay event, Ashwini, who is a part of the 18-member track and field athletics team to have reached Glasgow, will this time also be competing in the same event, along with 400m individual hurdles.
Ashwini, 26, who has won gold medals at the 2010 CWG and 2010 Asian Games in 4x400m relay event with Manjeet Kaur, Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose and also an individual gold medal in the 400 metres hurdles in Guangzhou, is once again waiting to hear the national anthem.
"It`s a great feeling to see the tri-colour unfurl and move up, just as you hear and sing the national anthem while on the podium. I am itching to feel and witness the moment again," said a confident Ashwini.
Nicknamed the `Gensale Express`, Ashwini contributed to 38 gold medals that India earned during Delhi CWG. In total, the hosts managed 101 medals to stay behind leaders Australia in the medals tally.
This time also Ashwini predicted a good show from India during the July 23 to August 3 event, but said it would be difficult to repeat the performance of 2010.
"In Delhi we were the hosts and that really added to our performance. But conditions in Glasgow are different, so one may see a little dip in the medal tally. The count of 70-80 should be satisfactory. We are already short on 36 medals with a few events being taken off. But you never know, a playing field is as unpredictable as life," said Ashwini.
The Udipi-born 400m hurdler failed a dope test in 2011 and subsequently failed to board the plane to the 2012 London Games post a two-year ban by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), along with fellow athletes Mandeep, Sini, Tiana Mary and Priyanka Panwar.
The athletes claimed innocence, saying their ignorance to consume any protein supplement provided by the coach may have led to the banned substance to be found in their body, but the NADA was unrelenting. But the ever-positive Ashwini has chosen to forget the past.
"Let bygones be bygones. I believe in moving forward. The doping ban is now a closed chapter in my life. I learnt vital lessons. I believe everything will be good from now on," concluded Ashwini.