Lalita Babar on Saturday qualified for the women’s 3000m steeplechase final after finishing fourth in the qualifying heat 2 with a national record time while compatriot Sudha Singh was eliminated in the Olympic Games. Lalita also became the first Indian woman to reach track final in Olympics since PT Usha in 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Lalita, who had won the bronze medal in the event in the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, two years ago, in fact finished with the seventh-best time in the heats in a new national record of 9 minutes, 19.76 seconds.
Lalita, in fact, clipped nearly seven seconds off the national mark standing in the name of Sudha Singh (9:26.55), clocked in Shanghai in May.
The top three in the three heats gain automatic qualification while Lalita, hailing from Maharashtra, made the grade as one of the six fastest from among the rest.
Had she run in the third heat she would have qualified as the winner of that race.
Sudha, on the other hand, performed far below her best to finish a distant 9th in heat 2 in a poor 9:43.29 which gave her the 30th spot out of 52 in the qualifiers.
Lalita will be seen in the final of the gruelling race on August 15.