Dipna's race against time
Hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad knows she must seize the day
On her way to smashing the 400m hurdles national record multiple times, Dipna Lim-Prasad has had to overcome many barriers — not just those metal obstacles but mental ones as well.
Her athletic career resembles her runs on the track. It’s often one hurdle after another.
It’s been like that since she was a 13-year-old student at the Singapore Sports School.
Lim-Prasad told The New Paper in a recent interview: “When I went to the Sports School, I didn’t get an individual event for national schools (competition) in the first year, because I was the slowest in the whole school.
“It’s as though I’ve been good, but not good enough and, I suppose, that’s always the case for an athlete.
“You might win a gold at the SEA Games but not be good enough for gold at the Asian Games, so on, all the way up to the Olympics.”
Through the years, however, the 23-year-old has proven adept at overcoming self-doubt.
At her first South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Palembang in 2011, she finished last out of nine runners in the 100m hurdles finals and failed to qualify for the 400m hurdles finals.
But, two years later, at the 2013 Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, she created history by becoming the first Singapore woman to win an individual track medal since Heather Siddons-Merican’s 400m hurdles bronze in 1979.
Lim-Prasad’s time of 59.96sec also made her become the only Singaporean to finish the event in under a minute.
Said the leggy hurdler: “I went into the 2013 SEA Games as an underdog and being worried because I was the flag-bearer.
“Previous flag-bearers were gold medallists, and there I was, not even sure whether I could win a medal at all.
“So, to win that bronze, and with my parents coming down to support me in what was their first trip overseas to watch me compete, was a big deal.”
It has been a roller-coaster 18 months for the Nanyang Technological University graduate since.
Last June, a quadricep muscle injury forced her to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
She also had to adapt to a new trainer in national sprints and relay coach Luis Cunha, as her long-time mentor Viatchelsav Vassiliev left Singapore after his contract with the Sports School ended.
On a high note, though, she married her boyfriend of six years, and fellow runner Poh Seng Song last year.
“It hasn’t been smooth sailing in 2014, to say the least,” she said, wryly. “It wasn’t much to shout about, especially following a great 2013.”
Her mixed fortunes have continued this year.
After rewriting her own 400m hurdles record with a 59.86sec at the Sydney Track Classic in March, she suffered a hamstring strain which ruled her out of the Singapore Open in April.
But she recovered to lower her record again at the Taiwan Open on 16 May, with a time of 59.59sec.
Lim-Prasad, who turned 24 in May, knows she cannot afford to stumble anymore.
“My hamstring is all right now, but there are other little things bothering me... I swear it’s my age,” she said, followed by a hearty laugh.
“I feel like, because I’m a bit older now, I don’t have much time to waste, to get injured and all that.”
She knows she is still a long shot for gold in the 400m hurdles, as the winning time in Myanmar, 58.85sec, is still seven-tenths of a second better than her best effort.
“I know I still have a lot more to improve. It’s still a stretch for me, but I’m fighting hard to reach there in time.”
Another obstacle, but who’s to say she won’t overcome it?