Ashwini emulates Usha in 400m hurdles


MANGALORE: When Akkunji Chidananda Ashwini called up her family after the qualifying race for the 400m hurdles at Asian Games in Guangzhou in China on Wednesday, she repeatedly said, “I must get gold tomorrow.”

On Thursday afternoon, she held the tricolour high at the awards ceremony with her career best performance that brought gold for the country ending a 25-year drought of medals in the event. It was gritty P.T. Usha who last won a gold medal in the event in the 1986 Asian Games. Usha finished fourth in the 1984 Olympics.

Ashwini made headlines after she gave the decisive lead for the Indian 4 x 400 m relay team in the recent Commonwealth Games in New Delhi running the third leg of the race on October 12. The team went on to win gold.

Although she could not repeat her performance in the hurdles in Commonwealth Games, “she got back her rhythm during the four weeks of practice (for Asian Games),” said Rajinder Singh Saini, Chief Coach India Athletics (Juniors) over phone from Patiala.

The gold medal-winner hails from a farmer’s family of a hamlet called Jansale near Siddapura, about 30 km from Kundapura in Udupi district. Her parents B.R. Chidananda Shetty and Yashoda spotted her talent and ensured that she joined the Tata Athletics Academy in Jamshedpur. Mr. Shetty first admitted her to the Government-run Sports School at Vidyanagar near Bangalore. There were occasions when the couple had to pledge their jewellery to support Ashwini’s training.

Ashwini’s sister A.C. Deepthi told The Hindu from Jansale that sheer determination had taken her sister to the top. “She practised hard,” she said. Ms. Deepthi and Mr. Shetty pointed out that Ashwini’s timing was 59 seconds in the nationals at Thiruvananthapuram about a year ago. On Wednesday, she clocked 56.17 and on Thursday it was 56.16 seconds. “She is close to the qualifying mark for Olympics,” Mr. Saini told The Hindu. “She has to aim at bringing her timing to 55 seconds now.” She can hope for a podium finish at the Olympics if she clocks 53 seconds,

Dakshina Kannada District Sports School Athletic Coach Vasanthakumar said: “She is made for hurdles.”
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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.

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