CWG 2018: Seema eyes perfect CWG swansong

Seema has been the most decorated Indian track and field athlete in the Commonwealth Games history, delivering a medal each time she has taken part in the quadrennial event.

At 34, Seema Punia is a medal contender in this year's CWG.   -  PTI

She might have a dope-tainted past, but Seema Punia would once again be one of India’s strongest bets for a medal when she hurls the discus one last time at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) next month.

Seema has been the most decorated Indian track and field athlete in the CWG history, delivering a medal each time she has taken part in the quadrennial event.

Starting from the 2006 edition in Melbourne, where she won a silver, the Haryana athlete has been on the podium in 2010 and 2014, and at 34 she is again a medal contender.

In a nearly two-decade career, Seema has competed in three Olympics (2004, 2012 and 2016), one Asian Games (2014) and three CWG. She is even aiming for the 2020 Olympics.

“It is going to be my fourth CWG and I am confident I can win a medal at Gold Coast but cannot tell which colour it will be,” Seema, who is currently training in the USA, told PTI.

“It has been a long journey. I don’t know whether I will be able to keep myself fit until 2022 Birmingham CWG but I want to keep going at least till 2020 Olympics. I am not finished yet,” she added.

Hailing from Khewda in Sonepat district of Haryana, Seema, began her athletics career at the age of 11. Although she started off as a hurdler and a long-jumper, she later turned to discus throw. Seema had won medals in shot put also.

She came to limelight by beating the then national discus throw champion Neelam Jaswant Singh in 2000 at the Calcutta Open Nationals with an effort of 57.30m.

In the same year, a 17-year-old Seema won the discus throw gold in the World Junior Athletics Championships in Santiago, Chile, but lost her medal after testing positive for pseudoephedrine, a drug widely used in medications for common cold.

Under the IAAF rules of the time, there was no suspension for testing positive for stimulants and so she was let off with a warning.

Seema then won a bronze medal at the next World Junior Championships in 2002. She missed out on a final berth in the 2004 Olympics, finishing 14th overall in the qualification round.

In the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, she picked her first medal in a multi-sport mega event by winning a silver but got embroiled in a doping controversy just before the Doha Asian Games.

According to several reports, she tested positive for the steroid stanozolol. Although she was cleared off the charges by Athletics Federation of India, Seema chose not to participate in the Asian Games, citing the ill health of her father.

She returned - following a lean phase - in the 2010 Delhi CWG by winning a bronze in India’s clean sweep of women’s discus medals. Her arch rival Krishna Poonia had won the gold while Harwant Kaur took the silver.

In the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Seema was not up to the mark, crashing out of the qualification round each time.

“I don’t have any particular regret as such in my career but the failure to make it to the Olympics final round still rankles me. That is why I want to be in the 2020 Olympics and do well there,” said Seema, who is a sub-inspector at the Haryana Police.

“Otherwise, I have achieved a lot. I am not expecting anything from the government. I am not in the TOP Scheme and I have been denied any award,” said Seema, who held the national record (64.84m) from 2004 to 2012.

Seema’s only gold in a multi-sport mega event so far came in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon where she hurled the iron disc to 61.03m.

With a throw of 61.05m at the Federation Cup National Athletics Championships in Patiala earlier this month, Seema has come into a medal reckoning again.

Her caution about bagging the highest honour is understandable as Australian Dani Stevens is defending the title she won in 2014 Glasgow edition in front of a home crowd. The 29-year-old Dani, a former world champion, is the favourite to win the gold in Gold Coast.

Dani has a season’s best of 66.09m. She had won the gold in Glasgow with a 64.88m effort while Seema had won the silver with a throw of 61.61m. Seema is currently second in ranking among Commonwealth athletes this season behind Dani.