Mumbai: Distance runner Lalita Babar, who created a piece of history in Beijing yesterday by becoming the first track athlete from India to reach the final round in the IAAF World Championships, says her excellent timing in the heats gave a big boost to her confidence for the final.
"Getting to the final was a great achievement. The timing in the heats also gave me a lot of confidence," said Lalita who finished eighth in women's 3000m steeplechase final by clocking 9:29.64, according to a release from JSW Sports, which supports her.
The timing in the final was, however, slower than the new national record that the 26-year-old reigning Asian champion from Satara in Maharashtra had set in the semifinal heats (9:27.86).
"In the final I was very clear that I wanted to run the race on my own terms. I wasn't going to be overawed by the other athletes. According to coach Nikolai (Snesarev), I have been running very well in the last two months and my plan was to do just that," Lalita said.
Only two other Indian athletes -- both from field events (long jumper Anju Bobby George and discus thrower Vikas Gowda) -- have finished better than Lalita in a World Championship.
"When I lined up for the 3000m steeplechase final, I was enjoying myself. The whole walk from the indoor warm-up area to the main track, the packed stadium and the company of some of the world's best steeplechasers was a wonderful feeling. I would not say I was not nervous, but it was just the usual pre-race nervousness," she said.
Lalita said that having looked at the start list for the final, she knew who she was going to be up against, and to compete in that field she needed to build up a big lead.
"I knew that other athletes with me were strong finishers. They were going to kick in the last 800 meters and my plan was to just go for it. This was once again running on my own terms. I knew I had to build a sizable lead. I managed to do that but then they eventually caught up. I was fighting hard till the last lap but fell behind," she said.
For Lalita, the championship has been a big eye-opener.
"Being at the World Championships has been really helpful. For the whole week I have been observing the other athletes. Running with them has provided me quite a few insights. There are certain things that I have to improve upon and I will work on them right from now," Lalita said.
Lalita also saw positives from her performance, with the Rio Olympic Games looming large next year.
"By just being at this platform and competing with the best athletes in the world, I think I have learned a lot of things. This experience will allow me to prepare in a much better way both physically and mentally for what is a very important year for me. The target for me is putting up a good performance at Rio and this has been a good place to start off that journey," she said.