Lalita Babar learned to run out of necessity. As a young girl in India, Babar would run 2.5 miles to school everyday in her bare feet, because her family couldn’t afford to get her shoes.
The running eventually became a passion and then a career. On Monday, the 27-year-old from Satara, Maharashtra who began as a distance runner, further distanced herself from those humble beginnings as she attempted to get India on the medal board after becoming the first Indian woman to qualify for the final of an Olympic individual track event since P.T. Usha in 1984 (400m hurdles.) on Sunday.
It's been over three decades since the country could entertain the possibility of a Track & Field Olympic medal. Barbar, who won the steeplechase title at last year’s Wuhan Asian Championships and will also take part in the marathon at the Rio Games, qualified for the women’s 3000m steeplechase final after finishing fourth in the qualifying heat 2 with a national record time of 9 minutes and 19.76 seconds this weekend.
Lalita (9:19:76) clipped nearly seven seconds off the national mark. She finishes with the seventh-best time in the heats in a new national record of 9 minutes, 19.76 seconds.
Unfortunately India will have to wait another four years to capture that T&F gold as Barbar finished a respectable 10th in the finals of the Women's 3000m steeplechase in Rio. Regardless of the outcome, Babar has become a darling of these games and she represents another inspirational story that exemplifies the all-encompassing power of athletics and how it can change a person's fortunes and help them rise above the most challenging conditions.