Seven Indian walkers better Olympic qualification time

Now, there is a problem of plenty as only three athletes from a country will be allowed to take part in the Olympics in a particular event and nine Indians have crossed the Olympics qualifying time in men’s 20km race walk.

Gurmeet Singh clocked 1:21:24.57 to clinch the gold on the first day of the National Championships.   -  Special Arrangement

The 22-year-old Khushbir Kaur finished with a time of 1:34:52.70.   -  Special Arrangement

Gurmeet Singh had a good time under the mild morning Sun as he breezed past his opponents to win the gold medal in 20 kilometre walk, almost unchallenged, in the third National race walking championship here on Saturday.

Much against the general projection that the local girl Sapna would pose a serious threat, Asian Games silver medallist Khushbir Kaur coasted to victory in the women’s section, almost two minutes ahead, even though she was a bit disappointed to strain her right leg, owing to the sloping nature of the road.

The 30-year-old Gurmeet, who has already competed in three World Championships apart from the London Olympics, was pleased with the road and the conditions.

"It is such a beautiful road. It is better than anything I have seen in international competition. It looks ready for an aeroplane to take off. I could have got a better timing, but it was my own fault as I did not have a good time in the first 10 kilometres," said Gurmeet, who is also a coach with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Bengaluru, and has been blessed with a baby girl recently.

"Life is good. My aim is to win an Olympic medal," said Gurmeet, who clocked 1 hour 21 minutes 24.57 seconds in beating K. Ganapathi of Tamil Nadu.

The favourable conditions and a superb straight road, led to seven walkers coming under the Rio Olympics qualification mark of 1:24:00. Of these, Gurmeet, Sandeep Kumar, Manish Singh had already achieved the mark.

K. Ganapathi (1:21:51.43), national record holder K. T. Irfan (1:22:14.02) who had placed tenth in the London Olympics, Devender Singh (1:22:40.60) and Neeraj (1:23:34.02) were the others to achieve the mark, taking the tally of Olympic qualified walkers to nine men.

Of course, only three each can make it to the Games for the 20 km and 50 km events. The selectors could have a tough time, making the choice for the forthcoming international events.

Seasoned walkers Baljinder Singh and Babu Bhai Panocha placed eighth and ninth respectively.

While the 22-year-old Khushbir Kaur came under the Olympic qualification mark of 1:36:00, with a time of 1:34:52.70, Sapna who was consistently cheered by a strong gathering , and has already got the Olympic qualification mark, returned a time of 1:36:59.36.

The rest of the lot, Priyanka, Ranjana Gupta, Karamjit Kaur, Rani Yadav did well to project a positive image of women’s race walking, and the possibility of a third Indian woman making the cut for Rio.

The start was delayed a bit because of darkness, and the fact that the road lights, with automatic solar control, went off at twilight. It will be interesting to see how well the organisers ensure the smooth conduct of the more challenging 50-kilometre walk on the morrow.

Results:

20km walk: Men: 1. Gurmeet Singh 1:21:24.57; 2. K. Ganapathi 1:21:51.43; 3. Sandeep Kumar 1:21:56.81; 4. K. T. Irfan 1:22:14.02; 5. Manish Singh 1:22:18.89; 6. Devender Singh 1:22:40.60; 7. Neeraj 1:23:34.02.

Women: 1. Khushbir Kaur 1:34:52.70; 2. Sapna 1:36:59.36; 3. Priyanka 1:40:58.93.