Gurmeet drops to 3rd in race for Rio quota despite Asia gold

Apart from the 20km Asian Championship which was part of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge series, the event in Nomi City had an open event which had six other Indians in the fray and two of them, Devender Singh and Manish Singh Rawat, finished higher than Gurmeet in the overall standings.

Gurmeet Singh won a historic Asian race walking gold in Japan on Sunday. (File photo)   -  The Hindu

Gurmeet Singh may have won a historic Asian race walking gold in Japan on Sunday but ironically, he has now dropped to the third spot in the race to the Rio Olympics among Indian walkers.

Apart from the 20km Asian Championship which was part of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge series, the event in Nomi City had an open event which had six other Indians in the fray and two of them, Devender Singh and Manish Singh Rawat, finished higher than Gurmeet in the overall standings.

Devender equals national record

Interestingly, Devender equalled the four-year-old national record of K.T. Irfan while finishing fifth overall with a time of 1:20.21s on Sunday while Manish was sixth finishing the course in 1:20.26.

National champion Gurmeet, who won the Asian gold, was eighth overall at 1:20.29.

With Sandeep Kumar (1:20.44) finishing just behind Gurmeet in the ninth spot, India had a very fruitful outing in Nomi taking four of the top 10 positions overall in a field that included Canadian and Australian walkers.

Stunningly, all the four Indians bettered their personal bests while Japan’s Daisuke Matsunaga won the overall honours in Nomi in 1:18.53 which should put him among the world’s top three this year.

“Only one entry per country is allowed in the Asian championship and that is why Gurmeet, being the national champion was entered, but the others did remarkably well in the open event,” said Radhakrishnan Nair, the Deputy National Coach.

One more 50km berth possible

That should augur very well for the country in the IAAF Race Walking World Team Championship which will be held in Rome on May 7 and 8.

“We will be sending five 20km walkers and five 50km walkers and four girls (20km) for the Worlds. And we may get one more qualifier in the 50km from this event,” said Radhakrishnan Nair. “But getting a medal is very difficult, it is a team championship.”

Manish for 50km

Nine race walkers have qualified for the Olympics in the men’s 20km but since a country can field only three walkers in an event, Radhakrishnan Nair said that Manish could probably do the 50km.

“Manish has qualified for 50km also (along with Sandeep Kumar), so he might opt for that event at the Olympics,” said the Deputy National Coach. “We will finalise the team after seeing the performance in the Walks Worlds.”

Among the other Indians, National runner-up K. Ganapathi finished 16th in 1:22.33 while Neeraj did not finish in Nomi. There was some confusion over national record-holder K.T. Irfan’s performance. While the official results suggested Irfan did not start (DNS), Radhakrishnan Nair said Irfan did not finish.

“Is it mentioned as a DNS? I heard that he had stopped in between owing to an injury,” he said.