I know we all have read the ‘tortoise and rabbit’ story and how tortoise slowly and steadily defeated the rabbit and seriously, this is not another story. This article is about an Olympics Sports about which majority of sports enthusiasts must be having very little or no knowledge at all. This article is about our nation’s race walkers who will be competing in London Olympics. But before that, let’s see what this sport is all about.
Race walking is a long-distance athletic event. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. There are majorly two rules in race walking. The first rule sates that the athlete’s back toe cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. The second rule requires that the supporting leg must straighten from the point of contact with the ground and remain straightened until the body passes directly over it. There is another shocking statistic that since the inclusion of race walking in 1904 Olympics, excluding 1924, there has been at least one race walk in every Olympics Games. There are majorly two race walking events in Olympics – 20km walk and 50km walk.
In London Olympics, 3 Indian athletes will be competing in 20km and 1 athlete in 50km walk. There is a very interesting fact about 20km qualified racers – all the three racers have qualified with ‘A’ qualification mark which is highest qualification standard. The athlete competing in 50km race has qualified with ‘B’ qualification mark.
20 KM Race Walkers:
1) Baljinder Singh - This runner hails from a town Dera Bassi near Chandigarh and has acquired his sports training from SAI, Bangalore under the guidance of Ramakrishnan Gandhi. It is very unfortunate that despite being a national level athlete who will compete at the 2012 London Olympics representing India, nothing much is known about this athlete. He qualified with an ‘A’ qualification standard after finishing 5th in the Asian 20 km race walking championships with a timing of 1:22:12, which is also his personal best.
2) Gurmeet Singh – This veteran runner hails from a small village in Uttarakhand state. He is a current Indian record holder in the 20 km race walk, which he set in the Indian Grand Prix I in Patiala in May 2011. He qualified with an ‘A’ qualification standard after finishing 6th in 18th Dublin International Grand Prix in Ireland with a timing of 1:22:05.
3) Irfan Kolothum Thodi – This 22 year runner hails from Kerala and qualified with an ‘A’ qualification standard after finishing 19th in IAAF World Race Walking Cup at Saransk, Russia with a timing of 1:22:30.
These runners, despite huge claims of Indian Government about spending crores on players qualified for Olympics, have constantly struggled for money and proper shoes.
50 KM Race Walker:
1) Basant Bahadur Rana – Basant Bahadur Rana, the best of the ‘B’ qualifiers in the 50 km, has received training from the former national record holder Gurdev Singh. He serves in the Indian army and qualified for the Olympics at the World Race Walking Cup in Russia in May. He qualified with timing of 4:02:13.
Despite such a rich history, it’s sad that people make mockery of this sport and sportspersons. There is a need to understand that these race walkers compete only to make their nation proud and they need support and respect from people. It’s all the best from my side and hopefully they will silence all people who make a mockery of this sport with their sublime performances.