Race Walking National: Rawat (35km), Gurpreet (50km) win gold

It was stroll in the park for Uttarakhand’s international race walker Manish Singh Rawat as he comfortably won gold medal in the newly introduced 35km event in the eighth National Race Walking Championships in Ranchi on Sunday.

Rawat’s gold medal winning effort of two hours 49 minutes and 12 seconds, however, fell short of the 2022 Oregon World Athletics Championships qualifying time of two hours 33 minutes.

Gurpreet Singh won the title in the gruelling 50km race with a time of three hours 59 minutes and 42 seconds. He too couldn’t achieve the Tokyo Olympic qualification time of three hours and 50 minutes.

The women’s 35km was cancelled as there were no entries.

As compared to Sunday’s race, Saturday was quite productive for the Indian athletes as three race walkers — Sandeep Kumar, Rahul Kumar and Priyanka Goswami — qualified for Tokyo Olympics and were also successful in earning berths for the 2022 World Athletics Championships.

In the post race interaction, 29 year old Rawat said that he could have improved his time but there wasn’t anyone to push him.

“The second half of the 35km race was slow, and it eventually robbed me of a good time. But two or three races over the 35km distance will give me a fair idea how to tackle it. The efforts have to be evenly spread (the pace), otherwise fast pace early in the race can be disastrous,” Rawat told IANS.

The participation in 35km was thin. There were only four entries in the men’s category while women’s 35km had to be cancelled as there wasn’t any response.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had announced a week before the national race walking championships that 35km would also feature in the program.

Tamil Nadu’s Ganpathi Krishnan, who finished second with a time of two hours 58 minutes and 23 seconds, looked good in the opening 15km, but gradually slowed down.

Rawat, who had given a good account of his fitness in the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing 13th in the 20km race, said during the lockdown he couldn’t train on expected lines.

“It was tough to do endurance work. But I’m better off now. I should be able to do better in the next race,” said the Olympian.

The qualification for the 2022 World Championships started in December and runs until June 2022.

“Both Rawat and Krishnan will have another opportunity to achieve the qualification time in May and June during the National Inter-State Athletics Meet,” said a national-level coach.