Race walker Sandeep Kumar eyes Tokyo Olympics qualification

Sandeep Kumar had missed out on the qualification mark in last year's nationals by mere 34 seconds.

By Samrat Chakraborty

Indian race walker Sandeep Kumar is looking to clinch Tokyo 2020 qualification berth at the men’s 20km competition of the National and International Race Walking Championships slated to get underway from Saturday in Ranchi.

The Tokyo Olympics qualification time is set at an hour and 21 minutes. Sandeep had missed out on the qualification mark in last year's nationals by mere 34 seconds. But his coach Gurmeet Singh believes that his ward can better the result this time.

“Since the lockdown in March all competitions were canceled, so he didn’t get another chance to prove himself, Gurmeet told the Siasat Daily. "This time he is better prepared. If all goes according to plan we hope to do better than the (Olympic) qualification time."

Gurmeet also has high hopes from Priyanka Goswami, who trains under him at the national camp in Bengaluru, to breach the women's qualification mark, set at one hour 31 minutes.

“Priyanka too had missed the qualification mark by 34 seconds in the last edition of the competition held here at Ranchi,” said the coach who has been working on Goswami for the last one year.

“The weather is good. The athletes are familiar with the route as they had raced last year. So I expect good results. We have reached Ranchi and will be training on the route tomorrow (on Thursday),” said Singh.

Manish Singh Rawat is another athlete hoping to qualify for the Olympics. He had finished 13th at the Rio Olympics.

“Training has been good. Let’s see how the body responds on the given day,” Rawat said.

KT Irfan and Bhavana Jat have qualified for the men and women’s 20km race respectively.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI), meanwhile, introduced a 35km event for the men and women’s groups. World Athletics, the international governing body, will be replacing 50km event with a 35km race from August 2021 during the global competitions.