As Sudha Singh left the Tokyo Olympics’ qualifying race midway through the inter-state National Athletics Championship in Patiala last July, it was thought to be the end of a long international career, one where her first silver medal came at the 2009 Asian Championship in Guangzhou.
It was disappointing and frustrating for the athlete who was attempting to make her third Olympics appearance. But Singh didn’t give up. Now, one of India’s best 3000m steeplechase runners, Singh is putting in the hard yards for a final hurrah at the Commonwealth Games (July 28-August 8) and Asian Games (September 10-September 25) this year.
Speaking from Bengaluru where she is training, the 35-year-old lanky runner sounded confident of winning a medal and finishing her career on a high. “I have decided to give my best at both the Commonwealth Games in August and the Asian Games in September and would love to finish my career on a high,” said Singh, a 2012 Arjuna award winner.
And she will focus on the steeplechase. “No more marathons now. I have decided to focus on my pet event the 3000m steeplechase,” said 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games gold medallist from Rae Bareli. “I could have qualified for the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics but I couldn’t get proper preparation as I was able to attend only one marathon in India. Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 shattered all my plans and preparations.”
Singh, who is unfazed by the thought of competing with younger Indian runners like current national champion and compatriot Parul Chaudhary, Priti Lamba and Komal, said that she is confident of qualifying for both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in the 3000m steeplechase.
“I am working hard on my training and I am pretty sure of achieving the qualifying marks both the events, and for sure I would be looking to better my personal best in both the games,” said Singh, who was conferred with Padma Shri last year.
Besides winning the 3000m steeplechase gold at the 2010 Asian Games and silver in the 2018 edition in Jakarta, Singh also won gold at the 2017 Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar. She clocked her personal best 9:26.55 at Shanghai in 2016.
“There has been a lot of change in my thinking since I have decided to run my favourite 3000m steeplechase event. I’m getting positive vibes. Getting good speed at the camp, not pushing too hard right now so that I can peak at the right time,” said Singh, who left for the national camp last November within three days of joining as the OSD (sports) at the Rail Coach Factory in Rae Bareilly.
Being trained under a retired international steeplechase runner Jaiveer Singh at the national camp in Bengaluru, Singh said that doing marathon was quite “frustrating”.
“Marathon is unpredictable event. I trained hard but couldn’t clock good time in February this year. I’m yet to figure out what went wrong. Since I’ve won medals in the 3000m steeplechase at the continental level I feel more comfortable doing this again,” she said.
Singh also said it is her dream to start an academy for women long distance runners in Rae Bareli. A dream she has been nurturing since she was a child and a resident at the athletics hostel in Lucknow.
“For sure, I would be working on this project after my retirement from sport, but before that winning a medal at the Commonwealth Games is my dream as like others I too want to finish my career on a high,” said Singh.