India’s first athlete in 32 years to qualify for the final round of an Olympics track event, Lalita Babar celebrates her 31st birthday on June 2, 2020 (Tuesday). Babar initially started as a long-distance runner before shifting to the 3000 metres steeplechase in 2014 determined to win a medal in multi-disciplined events like the Asian & Commonwealth Games as well as the Olympics. Babar is a three-time winner of the Mumbai Marathon and has also participated in other long-distance marathons like the Airtel Marathon.
Born in the Mohi village of Maharashtra’s Satara district into a family of farmers, Babar was first introduced to running when she started playing Kho-Kho in school. Her school was 3.5 km far from her residence and with practices taking place early mornings, Lalita had to run to practise every day. She also had to cycle for long distance to fetch drinking water as she was born in a village regularly affected by droughts.
Babar started her career in athletics as a long-distance runner and clinched her first gold medal in the U-20 National Championships at Pune in 2015. By the age of 25, she was already a three-time winner of the Mumbai marathon and decided to shift focus to 3000 meters steeplechase to win medals in international multi-sport events. As she celebrates her 31st birthday, take a look at some interesting and lesser-known facts about Lalita Babar.
- Lalita Babar was born in the village of Mohi in Satara district of Maharashtra on June 2, 1989
- At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Babar became first Indian athlete to enter the final round of an Olympic track event
- In 2015, Lalita became the first Indian woman to qualify for a steeplechase final
- Lalita Babar initially played Kho-Kho before switching to long-distance running
- Babar won her first gold medal at the U-20 2005 national championships at Pune
- She is a three-time winner of the Mumbai Marathon
- Babar switched to 3000 metres steeplechase in 2014 determined to win a medal at the Asiad or Commonwealth or the Olympics
- Lalita Babar won the bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games
- At the same event, Babar also broke the national record held by Sudha Singh by clocking 9:35:37 in the final
- She won the gold medal and rewrote her personal record at the 2015 Asian Championships
- Babar clocked 9:34:13 at the 2015 Asian Championships and not only create a new best personal for herself but also rewrote the national record and Games record
- Her current best record is 9:19:76 which she clocked in the heats of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics
- Lalita Babar was conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2016
She won a medal at her first attempt which was at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon where she clinched a bronze medal by clocking 9:35:37secs in the final and setting a new national record – something she would rewrite with almost of every race that she participated in. She had broken the national record of Sudha Singh, who has set in 2012 with a 9:47:70 clock timing.
Babar followed the bronze with a gold medal at the 2015 Asian Championships and once again rewrote the national record as well her own personal best timing. Her timing of 9:34:13 not only created a new national record, improving her previous best set at the Asian Games but also created a new record at the Championships.
In 2015, Babar became the first Indian woman to qualify for the final round of a 3000 meters steeplechase and once again rewrote the national record. Babar clocked 9:27:09 in Beijing to rewrite her personal best and the national record but failed to win a medal after finishing eighth in the final. She was at her peak between 2014 and 2016 and created history when she became the first Indian athlete, since PT Usha in 1984, to reach the final round of a track event at the Olympics. She did it at the 2016 Rio de Janerio Olympic event.
She came to the Games on the back of a successful National Athletics Championships where she clocked 9:27: 09 seconds and bettered the national record. She once again improved the record with a 9:19: 76 timing in the heat, which is her current personal best but failed to win a medal in the final and finished 10th among all competitors. She was conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2016 for her achievement and contribution to track and field.