Athletics: Dipna takes new 400m hurdles mark in her stride

A decision to tweak her stride pattern at the start of this year finally bore fruit for hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad yesterday as she rewrote her own national 400m hurdles record in Sydney.

The 23-year-old clocked 59.86sec to finish fifth behind winner Lauren Wells (56.34) in the Sydney Track Classic, lowering her 2013 mark of 59.96 set en route to winning a SEA Games bronze in Myanmar.

It was fortunate that she had the chance to race at the ANZ Stadium: She had originally been slated to compete in the 200m but, with no slots available, was moved back to the 400m hurdles.

"It's very heartening to see that the changes have had a positive effect and that I'm moving in the right direction. I feel more secure and know that the training is paying off," Lim-Prasad told The Sunday Times.

In December last year, she started working with Singapore's new sprint and hurdles head coach Luis Cunha, who had joined the national set-up the previous month.

The Portuguese, a three-time Olympian and former coach of 2004 Olympic 100m silver medallist Francis Obikwelu, wanted her to reduce the number of steps she took between each of the first four hurdles, from 16 to 15.

The 50-year-old believed that it would improve her rhythm and lead to a quicker transition between hurdles, and thereby a faster time.

The experiment did not begin smoothly as Lim-Prasad struggled with her footwork at last week's Queensland Open Athletics Championships, clocking times of 60.59 and 61.53.

"It was my first time running the 400m hurdles since the SEA Games and also with the new steps, and I messed it up," said Lim-Prasad, who was also Singapore's first female SEA Games track medallist in 16 years with her bronze win in 2013.

While her record is marginally more than a second off Thai Wassana Winatho's gold-winning effort of 58.85 in Naypyidaw, it was exactly the shot of confidence she needed with less than three months remaining to the June 5-16 SEA Games on home soil.

A fist bump with Cunha after her race was the extent of her celebrations though, as she acknowledged that more work is required if she is to challenge for gold at the Sports Hub come June.

She said: "I slowed down too much over the final 100m. I need to be stronger. There's still improvement to be made."

This article was first published on March 15, 2015.
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