Three more Indian race walkers qualify for Tokyo Olympics

Priyanka and Sandeep
Priyanka Goswami and Sandeep Kumar. Photo: AFI/IANS

Haryana's international athletes Sandeep Kumar and Rahul Kumar and Uttar Pradesh's Priyanka Goswami won the 2021 Olympic Games quota places in the 20km event of the eighth National Race Walking Championships held in Ranchi on Saturday.

It was double joy for both Sandeep and Priyanka, as they broke the national record.

On his way to winning gold, the 34-year-old Sandeep clocked one hour 20 minutes and 16 seconds to crack the Olympic qualification time of 1:21 minutes. Rahul, 34, too, bettered the Olympic qualification time, crossing the finish line at 1:20.26 to clinch silver and become the second male athlete in Saturday's event to book a berth for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

It also turned out to be a memorable day for Priyanka. The 24-year-old crossed the line with a time of one hour, 28 minutes and 45 seconds, which was better than the Olympic qualification time of one hour, 31 minutes for women. It was her season's best performance and a national record breaking 1:29.54, set last year by Bhawana Jat of Rajasthan.

On Saturday, Bhawana, who had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics last year, finished second in the race with a time of 1:32.59. Sonal Sukhwal of Rajasthan finished third in 1:36.05.
With three individual athletes winning Olympic quota place on Saturday, the tally of qualifiers in race walking events has increased to five.

In 2019, Olympian K T Irfan (20km) was the first Indian athlete to achieve the Olympic qualification time in the Asian Championship, held in Nomi, Japan. His fourth place finish time of 1:20.57 was inside the qualification time of 1:21 minutes. On Saturday, however, Irfan quit the race at the 19km mark.
Both Sandeep and Priyanka had missed the Olympic qualification last year by a narrow margin of 34 seconds and 36 seconds, respectively.

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