With steely focus, Sudha Singh eyes marathon success at Tokyo 2020

The long-distance runner is so busy training that she has not seen her family for more than a year

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

As Tokyo 2020 approaches fast, veteran Indian 3000m steeplechase specialist Sudha Singh is eyeing an Olympic medal in what could be the third Olympic games of her career.

However, the 34-year-old is targeting the marathon rather than her specialty event. Sudha, who was awarded the Padma Shri during India’s 72nd Republic Day celebrations on January 26, 2021, is fiercely focused on the 42.195 km-long endurance race.

Her focus is so steadfast that she has not visited her hometown (Rae Bareily, Uttar Pradesh) or her family in over a year. The former 3000m steeplechase record holder reveals that she last went home back in December 2019.

Instead, she has opted to train in the national camp at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. She is currently at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) facility in Bengaluru.

“Lockdown started around March last year. I last went home long before that, in December 2019. But I speak to my family daily,” she told IANS.

She revealed that her family used to visit her in Patiala but the Covid-enforced lockdown put an end to that.

“They used to come meet me. But the lockdown stopped that. I don’t really remember the last time I saw them face-to-face.”

Sudha, who has won gold in the steeplechase at the 2010 Asian Games and the 2017 Asian Championships, will be 35 by the time Tokyo 2020 starts. But she has made the decision to prioritise the marathon before steeplechase.

Sudha’s first target is the New Delhi marathon, which is scheduled for February 21.

“This would be my third Olympics. I am fit and I need competitions to qualify. My ultimate aim is to win an Olympic medal. At the marathon, I am looking to break the national record and qualify for the Olympics. After that, we will decide upon what is available for steeplechase,” she stated.

The current women’s national record in the marathon was set by OP Jaisha at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing with a time of 2:34:43. Sudha’s best timing in the marathon is 2:34:56 while the Olympic cut-off is 2:29:30.

Undaunted by the prospect, Sudha is hard at work in Bengaluru as she looks to book her ticket to Tokyo. The Padma Shri award on Tuesday must have come as a morale-boost for her.

“I was sitting with a few other athletes at the hostel here when I got the news. I never thought I would get the award,” she shared.