The Indian Olympian returned to a competitive field for the first time after an injury last September to win gold among the elite Indian women racers.
With the men’s half in the Indian segment losing some sheen with top runners, T Gopi and Nitendra Singh Rawat, giving it a skip owing to injuries, the focus was on the only Olympian and Arjuna awardee Sudha Singh at the 2020 Mumbai Marathon on Sunday.
Sudha Singh, a two-time defending champion in Mumbai, was looking for a hat-trick of titles. Last year, while the 33-year-old showed fine form to defend her gold medal in an Indian course record time, this time around she wasn’t prepared to push her limits. The reason: a stress injury around her thigh region that kept her out of competition for the latter half of the 2019 season.
However, on Sunday morning, when the temperatures in the city too chose to be kind to the thousands who had hit the road, Sudha Singh cruised to the gold medal in a time of 2:45:30.
The timing might be way off her personal best, but Sudha Singh wasn’t worried. For her, the Mumbai Marathon was after all a tune-up for the season that lay ahead. “I was looking at this race as a warm-up for the other races this season. It’s not that I couldn’t push myself. I want to take it slow,” she said post her win.
While the injury kept Sudha Singh out of competition for a while, 2019 was a testing year in more ways than one for the Indian runner. She also had to deal with a bout of typhoid last year that forced her to skip the World Championships in Doha. But back on her feet after some troubling times, the Indian ace is eager to hit the ground running.
“Typhoid was a day before the Federation Cup in Patiala (in March). That meant I couldn’t make the World Championships team. Once that was sorted I had this fracture. But now things look better. I have had a good rehab at the JSW facility in Bellary and I am in good shape,” she said.
With World Athletics tweaking the qualification procedure for the upcoming Olympics, the athletes now have been handed two ways of making it to Tokyo 2020. While achieving the qualifying standard (2:29:30) remains as one of the methods, the athletes also make the Olympic cut given their rankings. And Sudha Singh was happy to voice her support for the change.
“I think it’s a good thing. Athletes have two options of making it to the Olympics. Earlier the qualifying mark would be 2:45. If you are to ask me, that was not good. It was very easy. I think the Olympics field should have quality in them. So, 2:29 is good.
“Then you have the rankings as well. Even if I manage a 2:30 or 2:31, I can make the cut for Tokyo 2020 based on my rankings. I am not much bothered about making the Olympics, I am sure I will. I have been running around the 2:30 mark,” explained Sudha Singh, who made a switch to road running following a commendable career in the steeplechase.
With the run in Mumbai done, the next race on Sudha Singh’s agenda will be the Seoul International Marathon on March 22. With the course in the South Korean capital among the fastest ones in the world, the Indian will be eager to bring her best out when she lines-up in Seoul. After all, qualification for Tokyo 2020 still remains to be achieved.