Tintu Luka semis’ sprint opens flood of joy

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As India’s Tintu Luka qualified for the women's 800m semifinals in the Olympic Games after finishing third in one of the heats here on Wednesday, it was by sheer luck that her mother Lissy Luka could watch those inspiring moments over television.

Lissy Luka was away from their home at Valathode near flood-hit Iritty, and visiting a relative. She could watch her daughter in action from there, but she would have missed it had she been in her home.

For, at that time, Valathode was going without electricity because of the floods.

Luka clocked 2:01.75secs to finish third in heat number two behind reigning world champion Mariya Savinova (2:01.56) of Russia and Alice Schmidt (2:01.65) of the US at the Olympic Stadium here. The top three in each of the six heats and the best six others advance to the semifinals to be held tomorrow (12am IST on Friday).

Luka, who started at lane number four, was running second for some time in the first lap but at the beginning of the home stretch, she was at fourth, and it looked like she would not get the automatic qualification for the semifinals. But the 23-year-old Indian, coached by legendary P.T. Usha, just about overtook Malika Akkaoui (2:01.78) of Morocco with a desperate lunge at the finishing line to finish third.

Said Lissy Luka, “Two days ago I heard that her sister (Angel Luka) was not well, so I went to visit her at the sports hostel in Kannur.

However, hours after my visit, I was informed that the roads were blocked to my home due to the flooding at Iritty. There was no electricity in that area and I thought about staying at my sister's home in Kannur town.”

“It seems God heard our prayers and deliberately kept us away from our home. Or else, we would not have been able to watch the race. I am a little sad because I missed most of the family members as they are in Valathode,” she said.

The first one to call Luka’s mother was her father working as a contract employee in Saudi Arabia. “He (Luka Joseph) was excited. It was indeed an anxious moment for us. Now we are praying for her entry to the final,” she said.

Lissy and Angel are a little apprehensive about her house at Valathode. “Neighbours have said that the stream running near our house is overflowing. We have no idea about what all damage it has done to our house. However, we consider everything is only for good,” said Lissy.

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