Lalita clocked nine minutes and 22.74 seconds — nearly three seconds behind her national record timing in the water and barrier race — at the Olympic Stadium.
The Maharashtra athlete was inside the top eight competitors midway and was not able to push as much as she would have liked to towards the closing laps.
With the feat, Lalita also became the first Indian woman to qualify for an individual Olympic track event final since P.T. Usha did so in 400m hurdles in the 1984 Games.
Meanwhile, Ruth Jebet of Bahrain claimed the gold medal after finishing the race in 8:59.75 minutes, while Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi of Kenya was second with a timing of 9:07.12.
Emma Coburn of the United States won the bronze medal in 9:07.63.
Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya finished a distant fourth with a timing of 9:16.05.
Lalita Babar became the first Indian to reach the final of a track event at the Olympics in 32 years after finishing seventh in women’s 3000m steeplechase qualification round.
The Indian athlete had broken the national record with a time of 9:19.76 in the qualification round to reach the final. She became the first Indian to qualify for the final of a track event at the Olympics in 32 years.
Despite her 10th finish, Babar’s effort was still the best performance by an Indian in a track event after after PT Usha’s fourth-place finish in the 400m hurdles in 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
The 27-year-old from the drought-prone Satara district in Maharashtra had become the second Indian woman after Usha in 1984 Los Angeles to qualify for a final at a track event at quadrennial extravaganza.
Lalita’s performance was the silver lining for India as other competitors from the country, participating in track and field events, failed in their quest to reach the next round.