By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, Feb (IANS) Haryana’s international athlete Sandeep Kumar could achieve Tokyo Olympic qualification time of one hour 21 minutes when he steps on the starting line for the men’s 20km competition of eighth National and International Race Walking Championships scheduled to be held in Ranchi on Saturday and Sunday.
Last year, the 34-year-old army athlete had missed the qualification mark by 34 seconds in the nationals. But his coach Gurmeet Singh, a former international athlete, is hopeful of a better result this time.
“Since there was a lockdown due to pandemic in March and all competitions were cancelled, he didn’t get another chance to prove himself. This time he is better prepared. If all goes according to plan we hope to do better than the [Olympic] qualification time,” said his coach.
Singh, who is coach with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and oversees the national camp in Bengaluru, is also hopeful of another trainee Priyanka Goswami cracking the qualification time of one hour 31 minutes in the women’s category.
“Priyanka too had missed the qualification mark by 34 seconds in the last edition of the competition held here at Ranchi,” said the coach who has been working on Goswami for the last one year.
“The weather is good. The athletes are familiar with the route as they had raced last year . So I expect good results. We have reached Ranchi and will be training on the route tomorrow (on Thursday), ” said Singh.
Army’s KT Irfan and Bhavana Jat of Rajasthan are two athletes who have already qualified for the men and women’s 20km race respectively.
Olympian Manish Singh Rawat, who had finished 13th in the 2016 Rio Games, is also in fray. “Training has been good. Let’s see how the body responds on the given day,” the 29-year-old from Uttarakhand had said last week about his preparation. He is attending the national camp in Bengaluru.
Besides the men and women’s 20km race, there will be a 10km race in the junior group.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has also introduced a 35km event for the men and women’s groups. World Athletics, the international governing body, will be replacing 50km event with a 35km race from August this year during global competitions.
Competition in 20km will be held on Saturday, while the junior, 50km and 35km will be organised on Sunday.