Marathoner Gopi’s Olympic quest hampered by pandemic, injury


Pandemic and injury were the reasons behind missing May 31 deadline to qualify for marathon event at Tokyo Olympic Games, said India’s 2017 Asian marathon champion Thonakal Gopi.

“I had a knee injury in later part of 2019 while 2020 was disrupted by the pandemic. Since the deadline to achieve qualification is over, focus is to get fit for 2022 season now,” Gopi told IANS from Bengaluru.

The deadline for achieving the Olympic qualification mark of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds ended on May 31.

At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Gopi finished 25th with a personal best of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds.

The 33-year-old distance runner from the Army also had a brilliant run in the 2017 season, winning gold medal in the Asian Championship.

“Winning the Asian marathon title was a big boost to my confidence though the 2018 season didn’t go on expected lines as I couldn’t qualify for Jakarta Asian Games,” he said.

The Olympian began the 2019 season on a promising note.

In March 2019, at the Seoul marathon, he clocked a personal best of 2 hours 13 minutes and 39 seconds in freezing cold of South Korea.

“I never had experience of running in minus temperature. The first 10km of the race were very tough, but I managed,” he recalled.

His performance in Seoul enabled him to qualify for 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships held in Doha later in the year.

“The hot and humid conditions in Doha weren’t ideal for distance running. My time of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 58 seconds was nearly four minutes slower than the Olympic qualification standard of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 30 secs,” added Gopi.

After the world competition in Doha, a knee injury resurfaced and Gopi was sidelined for over four months.

“Coming back from an injury was a challenging task. I’m doing rehabilitation. Since there isn’t any major competition now, the main focus is to regain lost fitness and get ready for 2022 season,” said Gopi.