Olympic hopeful Thonakal Gopi confident of qualifying

Thonakal Gopi, 31, chasing his second consecutive marathon appearance at the Olympic Games for India, is the 2017 Asian men’s marathon champion.

Thonakal Gopi, 31, chasing his second consecutive marathon appearance at the Olympic Games for India, has not qualified for Tokyo 2020 so far.   -  Prashant Waydande

Thonakal Gopi, 31, chasing his second consecutive marathon appearance at the Olympic Games for India, has not qualified for Tokyo 2020 so far. With seven months remaining, he is targetting the Tokyo Marathon in March 2020 and another foreign outing, if need be, to confirm his place among the long-distance runners to face the starter next July-August when the Games get underway.

Rio 2016 marked the Olympic debut for the Army Sports Institute runner, striding home in 25th position with a time of two hours, 15.25 seconds. “I know exactly what to expect in an Olympic competition after the first time run in Rio. The past performance does not guarantee any place for anyone, Tokyo is another competition and timings are getting lower.”

Speaking on the sidelines of a felicitation event before the Vasai-Virar Mayor’s Marathon, where he is the brand ambassador, the 2017 Asian men’s marathon champion noted: “I have not qualified for Tokyo Olympics yet, so the qualifying time of 2:11.30 is my focus. My personal best is 2:13.39 and am confident about going lower when running against world-class runners.”

Heat factor

The Wayanad athlete survived the heat at the Doha World Athletics Championships earlier, where marathoners in men and women category gave up due to health issues. Gopi was among the finishers in men’s event, conducted at midnight to counter the effects of heat in the Qatari capital, clocking 2:15.57 in 21st place out of 55 men marathoners who finished. The first six runners in Doha went under 2:11.30 (Olympics qualifying time).

The Indian explained: “Those who did a 2:10 plus timing do 2:03 in helpful conditions. If elite athletes were affected, my Doha time of 2:15 against a personal best 2:13 is decent.”

The heat factor in Tokyo during Olympic months resulted in the marathon and race walking events being shifted to Sapporo, a factor which the newly-married JCO with the Army, is not thinking about. Felicitations are motivating, he points out, in between selfies with Mumbai fans.