Colombo, Aug 27 (UNI) From the dingy police custody to the illuminated podium, Pinki Pramanik, in her eventful 19-year-old life, has experienced enough to gain maturity beyond her age.
However, the Bengal runner refuses to bask in her twin SAF Gold glory and insists that the Doha Asian Games is the real McCoy.
''You all know the depth of competition here. Improving my timing was the target and naturally I'm not happy. I had expected the Sri Lankan athletes to give me a good run for money and that would help me to better my timing,'' Pinki told UNI after winning her second Gold of the Games.
While the sturdy runner talks about her determination to better herself with every passing day, it's quite difficult to what she has gone through in her teen life.
Hailed as PT Usha's successor, Pinki's career took an ugly turn that saw her eventually landing in police custody. She was arrested in November 2004 after a single shot improvised gun was recovered from her possession. She hailed from Naxalites infested Purulia and there was investigation on her alleged nexus with the guerrillas.
One of the five Indians to find a place in the Asian team for next month's World Cup athletics championship in Athens, Pinki recalled, ''That is a dark chapter of my life and I just want to forget the nightmare. I was harassed at a railway station and a group of youth had planted this gun in my bag and dragged me to a local panchayat office and took it out.
''I was not allowed to enter the SAI complex after the event and was ostracised. It seemed everything was over. Fortunately there were some eye witnesses who saw the gangsters planting the gun and that saved my career. I could not concentrate on competitions after the incident. I took a three-month sabbatical to recover from the shock.
''Naturally, the results were not very good after that. I finished fifth or sixth in nationals, I don't even remember, seventh in junior championship, which otherwise should have been a cakewalk for me. And in Bangkok Indoor Games, I topped the heats in 800m but could not play the finals for a technical blunder.
''These are a part of my troubled past. But the best part is that I have left behind the chapter and getting along with life,'' she said.
And with the World Cup and Doha Asian Games lining up in her calendar, Pinki in fact has little time to waste.
''I have been picked in the World Cup for 400m and 4x400m Relay.
I had good practice and I'm gradually peaking. I worked hard in our Bangalore camp and hope it bears fruit in World Cup and Doha,'' said the athlete who won the Melbourne Commonwealth Games Silver in 400m.
Pinki's personal best in 400m is 50.42 and it is 2:03.23 in 800m.
''If you ask me, 800m is my favourite event but I'm concentrating more on 400m now because my timing is among the top eight in that.
The winner in last World Championship went 52 plus and if I can maintain or better my personal best, I can finish with the 800m Silver at Asian Games,'' she said.
Pinki has been in sparkling for this year, winning three 800m Gold in a row at Asian Grand Prix series in Bangkok, Bangalore and Pune besides 400m Gold in last two meets.
Pinki, part of the Gold medal winning Asia Championship team, will also compete in 4x400m relay here, along with Rupinder Kaur, Sagardeep Kaur and S Shanthi.
And the Eastern Railway staff insists she would live up to the expectations.
''Initially it was very embarrassing to be hailed as PT Usha's successor. But that motivated me. I felt there are so many people who believe in me, I have to pay back by living up to their expectations. That helped me in my preparation and I won't let down those who had unflinching trust in my abilities,'' she asserted.
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