Swapna Barman, who finished 26th in the heptathlon at the ongoing World Athletics Championships in London, claimed that she was on the verge of pulling out of the competition due to recurring back pain, reported PTI.

Barman, who won the Asian Athletics Championships last month, said that the back injury, which she first suffered in 2014 after the Incheon Asian Games, returned to trouble her after her first event, the 100-metre hurdles, on Friday.

However, she continued with the remaining six events to finish 26th – second from last – among all competitors, with a total of 5,431 points.

“I had this back pain after the 2014 Asian Games and the whole of 2015 and 2016, I could not do much training and competition,” Barman told PTI. “I began proper training in February 2017 only and then I won the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar to qualify for the World Championships.”

She added, “The back pain returned and after running the 100-metre hurdles here, I was feeling real pain. I called up my coach at home and told him I want to pull out of competitions. He told me to continue somehow. He said it will be a waste of an opportunity if I pulled out and people will not talk about me very kindly. He said if I can continue somehow I should do that. So I continued and completed the remaining six events.”

Barman won the heptathlon gold in the Asian Championships last month with an aggregate of 5,942 points, but in the World Championships, nothing went right for her as her performance in all the seven events dipped.

Her best event is the high jump, and in Bhubaneswar she did even better than the individual gold winner, clearing a height of 1.86 metres, while Nadiya Dusanova of Uzbekistan managed only 1.84 metres.

“Yeah, high jump is my strongest event,” she said. “I did 1.86 metres in Bhubanswar but here I could not lift myself due to the back pain and could clear only 1.71 metres. That is a huge 15-centimetre difference and I lost nearly 200 points in high jump.”

She added, “Had I competed without this back pain I would have done my personal best and could have touched nearly 6,000 aggregate points and I would have been really happy,” she added.

In shot put, Barman cleared a distance of 10.81 metres, ran the 200-metre race in 26.45 seconds, managed a distance of 5.53 metres in the long jump, threw the javelin to a distance of 43.49 metres and then clocked two minutes and 20.17 seconds in the 800-metre race. Each of her results in seven events was worse than her performance at the Asian Athletics.

Asked if she had back pain during the Asian Championships, Barman said, “I sometimes felt slight pain but I did not give much thought to it as it was bothering me and I was competing in home conditions.”

Barman also cleared the air about her participation in the National Inter-State Championships in Guntur last month, which the Athletics Federation of India had made mandatory for selection in the World Championships.

“Yes, I took part in Guntur. The federation officials said I will have to take part in at least two events [out of seven]. I took part in long jump and 100-metre hurdles and I did reasonably well in the two events.”

Barman, who has a peculiar six toes in each of her foot, said that her realistic target now would be to win a gold at the 2018 Asian Games.

“I will consult a doctor after returning home,” she said. “I think I need a long rest. I am not taking part in the National Open Championships [in September]. I hope to take part in the 2018 Commonwealth Games but my target will be to win a gold at the 2018 Asian Games.”

Barman’s selection in the Indian squad was also a matter of debate as 5,942 was not that big a score when it came to the level of World Championships. The athlete who aggregated 6,001 in the World Championships took the 21st place.