Siddhanth has sights firmly set on Asian gold

“I will be coming to the Asian Championships to get the gold, second place is not an option,” said the 26-year-old from Mumbai, in a chat with Sportstar, from his training base in California.

Siddhanth Thingalaya’s 13.48s at the Altis Invitational Meet in Phoenix helped him break his own national record and qualify for the London Worlds.   -  Special Arrangement

Around this time last year, Siddhanth Thingalaya was hopping from country to country, desperate to make the cut for the Rio Olympics. He made the qualifying grade once but an illegal wind let him down.

Now, with the burden of qualifying for this August’s World Athletics Championships out of his head, the sprint hurdler is thinking big.

“I will be coming to the Asian Championships to get the gold, second place is not an option,” said the 26-year-old from Mumbai, in a chat with Sportstar, from his training base in California on Monday.

“Last year, I was running consistently between 13.5s and 13.6s and this year, the timings are between 13.4 and 13.5. The way I am running now, 13.30s should not be a hard task to accomplish, so it will be a great time in India running with some of Asia’s best.”

HARD ROAD AHEAD

With China’s Liu Xiang, the former Olympic and World champion, inspiring a bunch of youngsters in his country, the 110m hurdles should be a tough event at the Asian Championships which begin in Bhubaneswar on July 6.

The defending Asian champion Xie Wenjun, a semifinalist at the 2012 London Olympics and a regular in the Diamond League world series, is the current Asian leader with 13.31s and Siddhanth’s 13.48s at the Altis Invitational Meet in Phoenix on Saturday, which helped him break his own national record and qualify for the London Worlds, should put him in the third spot in the continental list along with Kuwait’s Yaqoub Mohammed.

“My year has just started and it has not achieved its peak yet, so I am looking forward to completing this season with something good,” said the ONGC officer who first broke the 110m national record in 2010 and bettered it four times after that, thrice in the last one year. He has bettered the national record 14 times in all if one includes the indoor 60m hurdles event.

INDIA’S BEST

The sprint hurdles has not been a priority event in India for a very long time. Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, one of the country’s finest athletes ever, was the last Indian to do the 110m hurdles at the Olympics and he finished an impressive fifth at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Siddhanth wants to do something for the event that could bring it to the national limelight again. “We did not have many hurdlers running below 14s but now it has changed with the series of times I have been clocking,” said Siddhanth, who is coached by Gary Cablayan at the Evo Track Club at Long Beach, California.

“Liu Xiang changed the game for the Chinese and when one sets a high standard, the next generation will feel that the target is achievable because it was something created by their own athlete.”

That sure is a big goal. And Siddhanth meditates often to keep his mind calm and focused. The hurdles are many but he is ready for the challenge.