New Delhi: Top Indian athlete Tintu Luka, who was on Friday conferred with the Arjuna Award, said that the coveted honour came at the right time as she guns for gold in the upcoming Asian Games in South Korea.
Luka, who is the current Asian season leader in 800m (2:00.56 in Doha Diamond League in May), said she wants to make amends for her bronze medal finish in the 2010 Games by winning a gold in Incheon.
Luka also went into the 2010 Asian Games as season leader after smashing Shiny Wilson's 15-year-old national record by clocking 1:59.17 at the IAAF Continental Cup at Split in now Croatia but had failed to win the gold in Guanghzou. "I want to win gold in Asian Games this time and this Arjuna Award has come at right time. The award has given me the motivation and will boost my confidence," she told PTI in an interview.
"I missed gold in 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and had to settle for bronze. This time I am confident that I will win a gold," she added. Asked if she had anticipated that she would get the Arjuna Award this time after missing out last year when she was also nominated by the Athletics Federation of India.
"There was nothing like I was expecting or not. It would have been the same had I not got the award this time also. But definitely, every athlete feels happy if his or her achievements are recognised. So I am also happy," said a normally media shy Luka. The 25-year-old Luka was a disappointment at the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as she failed to qualify for the finals but she promised to make amends in Incheon.
"I did not do well in Glasgow and that is why I want to do well in Asian Games. Moreover, I am running in the IAAF Continental Cup in Morocco next month and I feel that event will give a very good opportunity to measure myself among the best in the world," she added.
The IAAF Continental Cup is a competition among the season leaders from four continental regions -- Asia-Pacific, Europe, Africa and Americas. Luka is representing Asia- Pacific. The quadrennial event, formerly know as Athletics World Cup, will be held in Marrakech in Morocco on September 13-14.
"I broke the national record when I first took part in IAAF Continental Cup in 2010 and I am aiming to run sub two minutes this time also in Morocco. Then I want to repeat that (sub two minute) in the Asian Games and that should give me the gold."
Not many Asian athletes have done particularly well in women's 800m race this season with another Indian Sushma Devi in third spot in IAAF season leaders' list among the athletes from the continent. Sushma has also been named in the 56-member Indian athletics squad for the Asian Games. Luka may face challenge from Margarita Mukasheva of Kazakhstan who has a season's best of 2:01.65 and who won the gold in 2010 Asian Games.
Usha also exuded confidence that her ward would win gold in Incheon. "I feel Luka should win a gold in Incheon and that would be a huge improvement from the 2010 edition. It is important for her to do well in Morocco (IAAF Continental Cup)," she said.
"I am expecting that she would run sub two minutes in Morrocco and that would be very important for her to go for gold in Incheon," she added. Asked about Luka's Arjuna Award, Usha said, "She richly deserves it and I am also feeling happy that my ward's achievement has been recognised by the government.
"When I first spotted her, I knew that she had the potential to bring laurels for the country and win awards. That is happening now and I feel proud of her."