Marathoner Nitendra Rawat eyes 2021 season to make the Olympic cut

World Athletics will resume September 1 with Olympic qualifiers for road races but Indian Armyman Rawat is up against odds.

By Naveen Peter

Even if the Olympic qualifiers for marathon and race walking are set to start from September 1st, some Indian athletes are going to wait until 2021 before hitting the road.

One of India’s premier marathon runners, Nitendra Singh Rawat is among those caught trying to make up for lost time.

Back after a knee injury that saw him miss the 2019 season, the Rio 2016 Olympian was looking forward to the Olympic year when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted his plans.

While a nationwide lockdown in India saw Nitendra Singh Rawat leave his training base -- the Army Sports Institute in Pune -- to head back home in Garur, Uttarakhand in March, the Army man soon joined his regiment to continue his build-up for the season.

“It’s been a difficult few months for me,” Rawat told the Olympic Channel.

“My fitness levels have dropped drastically and the primary target is to work on that. I am not thinking about competitions yet.”

Rawat, a Naib Subedar with Kumaon regiment, is now training at his base in the picturesque northern Indian hill station of Ranikhet.

“The focus has been on building my strength and shedding those extra pounds I gained due to the lockdown. Once I feel I am up to a certain level, I will try to regain muscle memory.”

Road ahead

With no chance of taking part in international events like the London Marathon now scheduled on October 3, Rawat is banking on the 2021 season. 

Qualification toh ab 2021 main dekhenge (I’ll look at qualifying only in 2021),” said the 30-year-old Rawat.

“Even if we could travel, I don’t think I am in great shape to clock a time good enough to make the cut. I have to restart all over again.”

Rio Olympian Nitendra Singh Rawat has been training at his regiment base in Ranikhet in Uttarakhand. Photo: TMM Media

Nitendra Singh Rawat’s personal best in a marathon is two hours, 15 minutes and 18 seconds while the Olympic qualification time is two hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds.

An athlete can qualify for the Olympics marathon by either achieving the qualifying standard or on the basis of his World Athletics world ranking as on May 31, 2021. Rawat’s ranking has nosedived too due to the long layoff.

Meanwhile, T Gopi, who became the first Indian to win the Asian Marathon Championships in 2017, and Sudha Singh lead the Indian race to qualify for Tokyo Olympics based on their world rankings.