India's Commonwealth Games gold medalist Krishna Poonia has set herself a target of 65 metres in the discus throw to make a podium finish at the 2012 London Olympics. For that she has to outdo her life's best (63.69 metre) to be in the league with top contenders from Germany, Cuba and China.
"This time Olympic medals would come in the range of 63-66 metres. Germany, Cuba and China are the top competitors, but I have set 65 metres as my target. I am confident that if I manage 65 metres, I could end up on the podium and I am striving hard to get there," Poonia told IANS from Portland (US), where she has been training for almost a year with her husband Virender.
Poonia's best this season came earlier in the week when she created a new national record of 63.67 metre en route to her silver medal-winning performance at the Altius Track Crew Throwdown meet in Maui Island, Hawaii.
The Indian's performance is 17th best of the season, way behind Germany's Nadine Muller, favourite to win the gold in London. A silver medallist at last year's World Championships, Nadine's best this season is 68.89 metre. Besides Nadine, Cuba's Yarelys Barrios (68.03 metre) has the second best distance while China's Yanfeng Li (65.85 metre) and Jian Tan (64.90 metre) have also produced better marks than Poonia.
Poonia, however, remains confident that she can hold her own against the best in business.
"This time German, Cuban and Chinese throwers will be the top contenders for the Olympic medal. I have the potential to beat them and I fancy my chances. There is little doubt the competition will be tough as there is little to choose between the top discus throwers.
"It will be extremely tough. I have been working hard and hopefully I shall reach my peak when the time comes," said Poonia, whose personal best 63.69 metres was set in Chula Vista, California, in 2010.
Asked how realistic her chances are, as there have been 10 throws above 65 metres this year, Poonia said,"It all depends upon the rhythm and right now I feel I am in my best shape. I am fine-tuning a few aspects of my throwing and I believe I can do it."
The 29-year-old Poonia, who was the first Indian to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal in athletics since Milkha Singh at Cardiff in 1958, has been sweating it out at the Portland training centre under the guidance of 1976 Olympic champion Mac Wilkins.
"It was Mac's association with the training centre here that prompted us to make Portland our base. He helps us with his inputs. At present I am working out on a quick release," she said.
Poonia, however, feels that the Hawaii throw has given her the much-needed boost ahead of the Games.
"The throw has given me the right kind of impetus at the right time. I enjoyed the rhythm. Setting records always makes you feel good. The performance will stand in good stead and help me to build on it," she said.
Since booking her Olympic berth in October, when she hurled the disc to 62.25 metre in an event in Portland, Poonia said she has been determined to prove her detractors wrong. She has shown marked improvement in the last two years.
Curiously her Commonwealth gold came for 61.51 metre whereas her 61.94 metre got her only the bronze at the Guangzhou Asian Games. Even her Doha Asian Games bronze in 2006 came at 61.53 metre.
"Last year had been tough for me when I was dogged by a knee problem carried over from the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Still, I improved upon my New Delhi performance marginally at Guangzhou a month later in November, though I ended up getting only the bronze despite my best championship throw. Yet, tongues started wagging and doubts were expressed about my future, some even said my Commonwealth Games gold medal was a fluke. But I am determined to do well and answer my critics with the disc," she said.
Asked if she was aware of the expectations, Poonia said,"I don't want to think about the pressure of expectations. They cause a distraction. It also puts a lot of pressure on me. I just want to concentrate on my performance."
Poonia said that the silver with a national record last week has given her the much-needed confidence in the run up to the Games.
"A medal is always good to back you up. But I am not thinking about the medal. I am focusing only on my performance," said Poonia, who is managed by IOS.