New Delhi: Back into the limelight after serving a two-year ban due to a dope offence, two-time Asian Games gold medallist Mandeep Kaur on Saturday said that she has silenced her critics who thought her career was over with her feat in the just-concluded Incheon Games.
Punjab girl Mandeep was a member of the gold-winning Indian 4x400 relay quartet in the 2010 Asian Games also, but she was banned for two years from 2011 till 2013 for steroid doping only to return to top-flight competition this year only.
"Those two years were so painful but I did not lose hope. I wanted to come back and I knew I could do it. But I never thought that I could come back like this and win a gold in the Asian Games so soon," Mandeep told PTI on the sidelines of a felicitation event.
Besides Mandeep, the three other members of the 2010 relay quartet -- Ashwini Akkunji, Manjeet Kaur and Sini Jose -- were also handed two year bans, and the government denied them entry at the national camps and training at government facilities.
"We were shooed away from everywhere we had approached for training. We were told we cannot use any government facilities. I feel that my gold in the Asian Games was a slap on the face of those people who had treated us like that," said 26-year-old runner.
The same quartet had also won a 4x400m relay gold in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games before the doping scandal in 2011 had made them pariahs of Indian athletics for some time.
The ban ended last year and the likes of Akkunji returned to competition almost immediately but an injury kept Mandeep out for another year. She returned this year at the Federation Cup in Patiala in August and she said she's now in for bigger things.
"It (Asian Games gold) is a sort of a career revival and I will now approach Athletics Federation of India to recommend me to the government for foreign training, either in Europe or United States. I want to do well in 2016 Rio Olympics, the relay team can do well in the Olympics," said Mandeep.
"It is a new quartet but we are a young team and we can do better," she added.
Another member of the gold-winning relay quartet, M R Poovamma said Mandeep's experience was important in the new team.
"I and Tintu Luka were in the team which won the gold in the Asian Championships in Pune last year. Mandeep coming in has helped a lot as she has the experience," she said.
The fourth member of the quartet in Incheon was Priyanka Panwar.
Poovamma, who also won an individual bronze in 400m in Incheon, said that she was satisfied with her performance at the Games.
"Overall, it was a satisfying performance in my first Asian Games. May be it would have been better had I won a silver in 400m but it's OK," she said.
"My aim now is to run sub-51 seconds and that should put me in the final rounds of big events like Olympics and World Championships," said Poovamma who has a personal best of 51.73 secs.