Irfan and Soumya win golds at national race walk championships

The 29-year-old from Kerala who holds the national record, began the new season on a confident note by winning the men’s 20K gold

K.T. Irfan (left) finished ahead of Devender Singh and Sandeep Kumar at the National Race Walk championships.   -  K.V. Srinivasan

Olympian race walker K.T. Irfan had the worst possible year of his career in 2018. He was ejected from the Gold Coast Commwealth Games village after his roommate was found with a syringe in his bag a few days after the race. And in the subsequent Jakarta Asian Games, he was disqualified.

However, the 29-year-old from Kerala who holds the national record, began the new season on a confident note by winning the men’s 20K gold in the 6th Open national race walk championships in Chennai on Saturday, in a time of 1 hour 26 minutes and 18 seconds. It was a far cry from his personal best at the 2012 London Olympics (1:20.21).

B. Soumya, also from Kerala, coasted to a relatively easy win in the women’s 20K category with a time of 1:40.25. Priyanka finished second (1:41.20). Soumya, who was behind Priyanka and Karamjit Kaur in the first 11 laps, took control of proceedings later on. Soumya couldn’t finish close to her national record of 1:31.28 set in Delhi last year in the same event.

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Karamjit was handed three warnings and she chose not to continue when she was asked to start from the pit-lane as she had already lost a lot of time.

“There was some problem with the road. And also I missed the services of [Russian] coach Alexander Artsybashev,” said Soumya. It is learnt that Alexander will soon join the team in the camp.

Irfan was trailing the top bunch, which included Sandeep Kumar, Chandan Singh, Devender Singh and Ganapathi Krishnan, for most of the race. He was down in fifth position with two laps to go but picked up speed in the final kilometre to breast the tape a second ahead of Devender.

“It feels great. Of course But I am not happy with the timings. I would say that it was partly due to the humid weather conditions and the sloped roads,” said Irfan.

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Unable to make the qualification grade for the Doha World championships in September-October this year, both Irfan and Soumya said they will definitely make the grade in the Asian race walk championships to be held in Nomi (Japan) next month. In fact, when compared to previous five editions, the Chennai event saw the poorest time recorded by the winners.
 

The results:

Women 20km: 1. B. Soumya (Ker) 1:40.25; 2. Priyanka (UP) 1:41.20, 3. Ravina (Har) 1:41.46; 4. Sonal Sukhwal (Raj) 1:42.55, 5. Bandana Patel (UP) 1:49.29.

Men 20km: 1. K.T. Irfan (Ker) 1:26.18, 2. Devender Singh (Har) 1:26.19, 3. Sandeep Kumar (Har) 1:26.19, 4. Chandan Singh (Uttr) 1:26.20, 5. K. Ganapathi Krishnan 1:26.43;