Thonakal Gopi: ‘Gold was certainly a surprise’

T Gopi, who became the first Indian to win the Asian Marathon men’s title in Dongguan, China, on Sunday, came to the event by accident last year.

T. Gopi (right) completed the distance in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 48 seconds.

Life has been full of surprises for Thonakal Gopi. The 29-year-old, who became the first Indian to win the Asian Marathon men’s title in Dongguan, China, on Sunday, came to the event by accident last year.

At the 2016 Mumbai Marathon, Gopi was supposed to be a pace-setter for Nitendra Rawat. Primarily a 10,000m runner, the Kerala athlete was supposed to drop off at 30km. But when he reached that stage, he realised that he could do a lot more and went on to finish the 42.1km event.

And he stunned everyone by making the cut for the Rio Olympics there; it was his maiden marathon.

READ: Gopi wins Asian marathon

“The Asian gold was certainly a surprise but I had expected a medal because when I saw the season best times here, I was among the top three,” Gopi told Sportstar from China on Sunday evening. “So, I knew I had a chance of getting a medal.”

So when did he realise that he could grab the gold? Where was the turning point?

“We were an eight-runner bunch for a major part but with about two kilometres from the finish, we were about two or three and I pushed to win (in 2:15.48s).

“The second-placed runner (Uzbekistan’s Petro Andrey, 2:15.51) was very close but the third-placed man (Mongolia’s T. Byambajav, 2:16.14) was far away.”

"The Asian gold was certainly a surprise but I had expected a medal because when I saw the season best times here, I was among the top three. So, I knew I had a chance of getting a medal."

 

Gopi was the lone Indian at the championship and India did not have an entry in the women’s event.

Son of a farmer in Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad, Gopi had won the 10,000m silver at the Asian Athletics Championship in Bhubaneswar in July, finishing four seconds behind Tamil Nadu’s G. Lakshmanan, the double gold medallist.

His personal best of 2:15.25s came at the Rio Olympics where he finished 25th last year and he was 28th in the London Worlds this year in 2:17.13. His goal is to break Shivnath Singh’s national record (2:12.00s) set in 1978 some day.