P. T. Usha: 'Tintu has done well despite limitations'

Legendary athlete P. T. Usha talks extensively about the reasons for her pupil's struggles in the global stage.

"You see her physique, she is very short, lot of limitations are there but still we made her run under two minutes," said P. T. Usha of her ward Tintu Luka (in picture).   -  Sandeep Saxena

P. T. Usha didn't like to take any blame for Tintu Luka’s unending struggles to make it big at the world stage but said the middle-distance runner has managed decent results despite her limitations.

The 28-year-old Tintu, mentored by Usha, has enjoyed success at the continental level, winning a bronze and a silver at the Asian Games — 2010 Guangzhou (2:01.36) and 2014 Incheon (1:59.19) apart from six medals at the Asian Championships.

However, at the World Championships, where the best in the business compete, she has struggled.

She finished 15th in Daegu (South Korea, 2011) only to be eliminated in the 800m semifinals and 19th in Beijing (2015), where she didn't go beyond the heats.

In the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Tintu only competed in 4X400m relay and was part of the team that finished 15th.

Usha, who is the country’s greatest female sprinter till date, has been training her from the beginning. The ‘Payyoli Express’ said that she won’t take criticism for Tintu’s mediocre show at the global meets and strongly objected to the suggestions that a foreign coach can help her ward improve.

'SHOW ME A FOREIGN COACH WHO HAS HELPED INDIA GET MEDALS'

“For me it’s not a problem but show me one foreign coach who has come here, trained Indian athletes and has got the medals (World Championship and Olympics),” asked Usha.

“Since the year 2000, foreign coaches are training Indian athletes. Are there any Olympic medals? Are you saying that only if Tintu trains with a foreign coach, she will get a medal?” she retorted.

“It is up to Tintu, not me (to decide on her future). Tintu is a senior Asiad medallist, Jessy Joseph is junior Asian Championship gold medallist, Jisna Matthew (Indian relay team member) is also there. Lot of others are coming up,” she said of her wards.

Usha, who missed an Olympic bronze medal by 0.01 seconds at 1984 Los Angeles Games, also explained how she has been trying different strategies to help Tintu improve.

“We are trying different methods with her but it is not suiting Tintu. 800 metres is not same for all. Tintu runs with the speed. Running with the speed means, take 400m time, 600m time and 1000m time and then you take percentage and make a lap. And run one more lap and it will be may be 3, 3.5 seconds above the second lap, it is like that."

“The other one is run a slow lap and maybe the same second lap. The second one may be one second lower than the first. But this is a very rare case in the world. It is not possible for everybody. Tintu was trying both the but it was not suiting,” Usha explained.

'WILL CONTINUE WITH THE SAME STRATEGY FOR TINTU'

A major criticism that comes Tintu’s way is that she takes the lead initially but is unable to maintain the momentum and intensity in the final 200 metres.

“Whether you are running in the front or at the back the time will be there. She tried 60 seconds (for first lap) in China (during the Asian Grand Prix). If she goes for 60-61 seconds, it is not possible for Tintu to pick up (for concluding part of race).

“If she goes for 60 seconds in the first lap, upto 600m she will get slower and timing will go upto 1 min 30 seconds. If she goes upto 1 minute 31 seconds, it will go above 2 minute 03 seconds, no doubt. If she runs sub 1:30 min (till 600m), she will then come under 2:02 min undoubtedly and if she is under 1:20, she will clock a sub-two minute timing,” she explained.

Usha said the way Tintu starts the race is actually the best option for her and they will continue with the same strategy for the upcoming World Championship in London.

“She is not comfortable when she goes slow. If you run 1:30 for 600m, the (last) 200m will be same, if you are 1:27.5 then also the (last) 200m will be same. If she goes slow and try for acceleration, her muscles get stiff, not giving her the pull (required during finishing stage).”

'TINTU WAS IN GOOD FORM BEFORE RIO'

Usha defended Tintu’s 29th place finish at the Rio Olympics citing her health condition.

“Last Olympics, she had bronchial infection and 800m runners need more oxygen. It was difficult for her but she did it in two minutes, which is a world class time. So, if she goes fast, she will be capable of performing better.”

“She was in good form before Rio. Tintu did three times (races) under two minutes. Does it mean she is going wrong? You see her physique, she is very short, lot of limitations are there but still we made her run under two minutes,” Usha defended.

She informed that Tintu has slowly started preparing for London as she was down with fever after coming back from China.

“Her endurance is okay. For speed, she needs 20-25 days to get back to normal. We have started slowly but it would require more effort.”

Usha said competition exposure was must for Indian athletes to improve.

“Lot of schemes are coming for 2020 and 2024, it should help. Athletes will get result with training and proper exposure. We should send them for competitions in Europe.

“Last year Tintu was in a very good form but she got only one competition outside. When you compete with better athletes, you also get better. When you go out, it’s for learning, win or defeat doesn’t matter. In athletics it is not happening,” she concluded.

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