The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saraswati: I would have given Susanthika a fight

Busan, Oct. 10: This Durga Puja, Bengal will raise a toast to Saraswati Saha. The tiny girl from Bandel stepped into big league on a cool Thursday morning at the Busan Asiad Main Stadium. She also silenced critics who had ridiculed her claim to 200m glory.

“It was a big race for me... I had done miserably in the 100 and badly wanted a medal from this. There was some pressure also as some people had been saying that I wouldn’t be able to do good timings outside India,” said Saraswati minutes after experiencing the biggest high of her 23-year-old life.

The news of Susanthika Jayasinghe’s withdrawal, half an hour before the final, gave Saraswati the edge. “I thought I had a good chance when Susanthika pulled out.” But the going wasn’t smooth.

“After about 30 metres, I felt a pain on my right leg and even thought about retiring for a moment,” the national record-holder said. “But I decided to carry on... bhagysish beriye jaini.”

She is not sure whether she would have won even if Susanthika was there. “But I would have definitely given her a tough fight,” said Saraswati in between speaking to husband-coach Amit Saha on the mobile.

There wasn’t the usual bonhomie and cheer surrounding a gold-medallist in the Indian camp as noticed on the previous days. But for Soma Biswas, no other athlete made the effort to come down to the waiting room and congratulate Saraswati. The officials too took their own time.

Saraswati, though, couldn’t care less. “It’s my own satisfaction which counts... I don’t want to think what others feel about my success.”

Having put Bandel on the map of Asia, Saraswati wants to aim higher. “If I can keep improving, I can think of an Olympic medal.”

n More stories, pictures: Page 14

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