Lalita Shivaji Babar smashed her own national record in a creditable performance to qualify for the women’s 3000m steeplechase final in the World Athletics Championships.
Babar, the reigning Asian champion, clocked 9:27.86 to finish fourth in heat number two and qualified for the final round as one of the six fastest timers outside three top finishers in each of the three heats who got automatic qualification. The final race is scheduled for Wednesday, August 26.
Maharashtra girl Babar, who trains under Nikolai Snesarev, cut more than six seconds than her own earlier national record time of 9:34.13 which she had clocked while winning the continental championships in Wuhan, China in June.
The 26-year-old, who also won a silver in this event in the 2014 Asian Games, is the first Indian to have qualified for the final round of the 3000m steeplechase event in a World Championships.
Tunisia’s world leader Habiba Ghribi, the Olympic silver medallist, won her heat in 9:24.38 for the best mark in the qualifiers.
The second fastest was German Gesa Felicitas Krause, finalist at the past two editions of the World Championships, in 9:24.92 and Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew was third fastest in 9:25.55 among the 15 runners who qualified for the finals.
All the favourites made it safely through to the final and the all three heats were close races, with the winning times within two seconds of each other.