Three more Indian race walkers qualify for Olympics, national records set

Sandeep Kumar, Rahul Rohilla and Priyanka Goswami were in top form at the National Race Walking Championships.

By Naveen Peter

Indian race walkers Sandeep Kumar, Rahul Rohilla and Priyanka Goswami qualified for the Tokyo Olympics following their fine performances at the 8th National & International Race Walking Championships in Ranchi on Saturday.

Competing in the 20km race walk, Sandeep Kumar set a new national record with a timing of one hour, 20 minutes and 16 seconds, bettering the previous mark of 1:20:21 jointly held by KT Irfan and Devender Singh to make the Olympic cut.

Meanwhile, Rahul Rohilla clocked 1:20:26 and finished second to seal his place at the Summer Games.

The qualification time for Tokyo 2020 is set at 1:21:00 seconds. A maximum of three athletes can qualify from a country in an individual event at the Olympic Games.

KT Irfan, the first Indian to qualify for the Olympics, is the third race walker who will represent India at the Games in the men’s 20km. He was unable to finish the race on Saturday.

The race walking championship is the first major athletics event in India since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.

Sandeep Kumar, who competed in the 50km race walk at Rio 2016, had won the 20km title last year, but the 35-year-old Haryana athlete had missed out on making the Olympics by a mere 34 seconds.

His performance at the national event has seen Sandeep Kumar jump to the 16th spot on World Athletics’ Road to Olympic Games list while Rahul Rohilla is in 21st.

In the women’s event, Priyanka Goswami won the title with a new national mark in Ranchi. The race walker from Uttar Pradesh clocked 1:28:45 for her win, obliterating Bhawna Jat’s record of 1:29:54 set at the same event last year.

The 25-year-old Goswami had missed out on Olympic qualification by 36 seconds last year.

With the Olympic cut for women’s 20km race walk set at 1:31:00, the 25-year-old Priyanka Goswami has eased her way into the Tokyo 2020 field along with Bhawna Jat.

Lead photo: Athletics Federation of India


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