No one comes as close to missing qualifying for the Olympic Games as ace 5,000 meters runner Parul Chaudhary did — by a solitary ranking spot, after the Covid-stricken Uttar Pradesh athlete failed to crack the qualification timing.
The top 42 athletes according to the world rankings qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 5,000m race before the June 29 deadline, and Parul was placed 43rd. The 42 top-ranked athletes also comprised those who had cracked the qualification timing.
“My world ranking in women’s 5,000m at the end of June was 43rd while 42nd were eligible to compete in the Olympics,” the heartbroken Parul, who was dreaming of competing in her first Olympics, told in an interview.
Parul, 26, was earlier laid low by a bout of Covid-19 in May, which majorly hampered her preparation for the Olympic Games. That happened while she was attending a national camp at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) training center in Bengaluru. She was among several top athletes who tested Covid positive.
“I was inside the room for 15 long days. Even after recovering from the virus infection, it took three-four weeks to get back to normal training,” she said of her disappointment.
“While the pandemic disrupted my training last year, this year the second wave of the virus was another big blow to achieving good results,” she pointed out.
At the 2019 Doha Asian Championships, Parul had bagged bronze in the 5,000m race with a time of 15 minutes 36.09 seconds and was considered to have the potential to achieve the Olympic Games qualification time of 15 minutes 10 seconds in the same event.
Parul also suffered a setback in improving her world ranking points that would have helped her make the cut for the Olympics.
At the National Inter-State Athletics Championships, held in Patiala last month, Parul’s gold medal-winning performance of 16 minutes 04.07 seconds didn’t help her improve her world ranking. “It was a big disappointment. It was my last chance to make the cut,” she rued.
Now back at the national camp in Bengaluru, Parul says she has to look ahead and plan for the next season. “I have to plan out for the 2022 season that will feature Asian and Commonwealth Games,” she said.