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Mathew T George
Mathew T George


Cough plays spoilsport, Tintu crashes out in heats

Rio Olympics Athletics India's Tintu Lukka, right, and Switzerland's Selina Buchel compete in a women's 800-meter heat during the athletics competitions | AP

For years, Tintu Lukka hasn’t been home for Christmas. It is competition season for her. The eldest of three sisters, she trains and lives at the Usha School of Athletics in Kerala. The school has sent two entries to Rio, Tintu and Jisna Mathew in the 4x400m relay. So, today, P.T. Usha was on the side lines watching her protégé run out in the third heats of the women’s 800m event. Tintu finished with a season best timing of 2:00.58, but stood sixth and failed to reach the semifinals.

In London 2012, she had reached the semi-final with 1:59.61. Her personal best in the 1:59.17 at the Continental Cup in Split, Croatia, in 2010. That performance had broken Shiny Wilson’s 15-year-old national record.

Tintu’s start at Rio raised Indian hopes as she took the lead in the first 100m, and maintained the upper hand throughout the first lap of 400m. Then, she dropped back and the field overtook her easily. Usha told THE WEEK: “About 10 days ago, Tintu had a fever and wheezing. She had not recovered fully. So, at around 500m, she started coughing and lost speed.” Tintu collapsed at the finish line and had to be helped off the track.

All said, it was not an easy field. But then, in the Olympics, it never is. The top finishers in that heats were Selina Buchel of Switzerland at 1:59:00; her personal best is 1:57.95. The second finisher was Margaret Wambui at 1:59:66; her best is 1:57.52. Like India’s own Duttee Chand, Wambui, too, has faced allegations of being an intersex athlete.

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