Hima Das says focus is on better timing not medals

Hima Das, who returned with three medals including the relay gold said her focus is to improve timings in the upcoming events.

Hima Das and Manjit Singh during a press conference at DLTA Stadium in New Delhi.   -  VIVEK TRIPATHI

They are the darling of the country after their superlative performances at the just concluded 18th Asian Games in Jakarta. Naturally, the spotlight was on Hima Das and Swapna Barman, when a few athletes interacted with the media at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) Complex here on Tuesday.

"I am only looking for better time. I am not looking at medals, whether it is the National championships or the Olympics," the 18-year-old Hima, who returned with three medals including the relay gold said.

Chief coach Bahadur Singh had no hesitation in heaping praise on the world under-20 champion in 400 metres, Hima, and saying that two years down the line, she could be No. 1 in the world.

"Athletics is a measurable sport. People who are performing at the World Championships and the Olympics have six to eight years of work behind them. They don’t miss a single training session. They only take active rest. The training continues. Hima Das is outstanding. Just wait for two years," said Bahadur Singh.

Read: Olympics medal is the next target, says Sharath Kamal

Swapna said that her target was to cross 6000 points, which she eventually accomplished to win the heptathlon gold, the first by an Indian in Asian Games. She was categorical that she was good only in three events and far from her best in the other four. Her ability to overcome physical pain, and her overall story captured the imagination of the nation.

On her behalf, Bahadur Singh pleaded to all the state governments to be generous with the  cash awards for all the medal winning athletes, as it would motivate the whole country to pursue sports with passion.

If you were looking for a surprise, it was delivered best by Manjit Singh who ran away with the 800 metres gold, past compatriot Jinson Johnson.

"The target was to run my best. The pressure was on Johnson as he was the favourite. Johnson won 1500 and so everybody is happy," said Manjit.

A minute’s silence was observed at the start of the media interaction as a mark of respect for the shotput gold medallist, Tajinderpal Toor’s father who died on Monday after prolonged illness.

Bahadur Singh, who had himself won two gold and a silver in shot put in the Asian Games, lauded Tajinder for his throw of 20.75 metres, a Games record.

Coach Radhakrishnan Nair said that it was an amazing performance by the 46 athletes whose average age was 24.

"The focus now is the Olympics. We can win at least three medals in the Olympics," assured Radhakrishnan.