Laid low by injuries for most of the first half of the season, ace discus thrower Krishna Poonia has begun training under Olympic champion Mac Wilkins in the United States in a bid to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
Three years ago, Poonia fine-tuned her throwing techniques under Wilkins and it helped her qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"We reached Portland (in Oregon State of USA) on July 11 and I have started training under Wilkins. I will be here with Wilkins for more than three months till November 1," Poonia said from Portland.
Poonia's training venue will be the Throws Centre at Concordia University at Oregon, where Wilkins, who won the discus gold in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games and a silver in the 1984 Los Angeles Games, coaches.
Asked about her chances of being conferred the country's highest sports award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Poonia said, "I think I am a strong contender for the award. It is given to somebody who has done something special in the past few years.
"I am the only woman individual gold medallist in the Commonwealth Games. So I think I can get the award."
Besides winning gold in the Commonwealth Games last year, she won a bronze in the Asian Games in Guangzhou.
Last year, she also won a gold medal in the third leg of the Asian Grand Prix and Asian All-Star Meet in New Delhi, the test event for the Commonwealth Games.
Poonia won a silver with a below-par 55.45m in her first competition of the season in the National Inter-State Meet in Bangalore last month. But she finished fourth with 56.23m in the Asian Championships in Kobe, Japan, early this month.
Poonia said her left knee injury, which had created problems during last year's Asian Games and also forced her to make a late start to the season, is almost healed.
"I am almost recovered from the knee injury. I had a good sitting with Wilkins and my husband (Virender who is also her coach) and we have drawn a road map for qualifying in the London Olympics," she said.
She will take part in three IAAF-approved events during her stay in the United States. Two are at Portland itself in September and the third at Chula Vista in California, where Poonia recorded her personal best of 63.69m in April last year.
"The facilities here are world class and the conditions are very good and I hope to qualify for the London Olympics in the at least three competitions I am going to take part here. Now my whole focus is London Olympics qualification," Poonia said.
Poonia has already qualified for the August 27-September 4 World Championships at Daegu, South Korea.
Photograph: Getty Images