Kolkata, Jan 16 (IANS) Indian track and field athlete O.P. Jaisha says she has been dreaming of an Olympic medal since her childhood and would not leave any stone unturned to grab it at the Rio Games later this year. “My dream is to win an Olympic medal. It has been something I have nurtured for years. I will give it my best. I have been training hard for Rio. Let’s see, but surely I will do my best,” Jaisha told IANS over the phone from Mumbai. The 32-year-old is presently preparing for Sunday’s Mumbai Marathon. 

Jaisha had finished eighth at the event last year, clocking two hours, 37 minutes and 29 seconds. She bettered the timing at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing by finishing the 42.195 km race in 2:34:43 which has made her the current national record holder in the marathon. Asked about her preparations for the Mumbai event, she said: “Training has been good. I have the experience now since I have been running a few marathons. Last year also I did well, so I am hoping to repeat it or do better this time.” Jaisha is looking forward to running against the world’s top athletes in Mumbai, who will raise the bar of competition. 

Elite Indian athletes including the likes of Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar, both of whom train with Jaisha, will also run in the event. “The good thing about the marathon is that we have competitors from all over the world here and we get to run with the best. Nowadays we have improved a lot to compete against them. It is also a platform to gauge one’s strength,” she said. “We also want to go abroad and compete in races with top athletes to see where we stand. Ideally, I want to finish second or third here.” The athlete, who hails from Kerala, also heaped praise on Belarusian coach Nikolai Snesarev, saying that his discipline and knowledge have helped the trio of Jaisha, Lalita and Sudha get better with time. “I like his discipline. Without him, we won’t be here. After his arrival, there’s been a difference of heaven and earth,” Jaisha said. “There is this continuity with him which we enjoy. He scolds us also but that is part and parcel of our routine. Before every competition, we are given targets and we focus on it and try to achieve it. We respect him a lot.” Questioned about how much she run in a week, the Incheon Asian Games bronze medal winner said, “I run around 210 to 220 km every week. In the morning, I practice for around three to four hours and in the evening, it is around one and a half.” 

She said that she prefers to run in the 5,000 metres category and that she is running the marathon for endurance strength. “I am running in the marathon for endurance but I preferably want to compete in 5,000 metres.” Snesarev, a few days ago, had blasted the Railways for asking the trio to take part in a cross country race one week before the Mumbai Marathon. Speaking about it, Jaisha said: “We could not reach there on time. Hence, we did not take part.”

(Debdoot Das can be contacted at debdoot.d@ians.in)

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