Gurmeet, Khushbir win Gold on the opening day of National Race Walking Championships
The opening day of the National Race Walking Championships in Jaipur saw as many as seven Indians in the 20km category better the Olympic qualification timings with Gurmeet Singh clinching the Gold in Men’s category and Khushbir Kaur winning the Women’s event.
Hailing from Uttarakhand, Gurmeet clocked in a timing of 1:21:24.57 thereby finishing well within the Rio 2016 mark of 1:24.00 to take home the yellow medal. The silver medal went to K.Ganapathi who finished with a timing of 1:21:51.43 and Sandeep Kumar of Haryana won the bronze with a timing of 1:21:56.81.
The other four- KT Irfan, Manish Singh, Devender Singh and Neeraj- may not have won a medal, but they too beat the Rio mark on the day. Irfan also booked a spot for Rio 2016 with that performance.
Coming behind Kaur in the Women’s event was Sapna, who finished with a time of 1:35:59.36 and in third place
Speaking after winning the Gold, Gurmeet praised the course on offer for the athletes, calling the ‘best in India’ and felt that while he did win the top prize, he could’ve bettered his own personal best.
“It was one of the best race walk courses I have competed in and no doubt the best in India. It’s fast and smooth and the temperature (of around 20 degree Celsius) was ideal and I could have at least done my personal best (of 1:20.35 in 2011) and even gone below national record. I was doing fast in first 10km but I slowed down in the second 10km,” he said.
“But even with this timing, I am happy because it is the start of the season. As it goes, I think I can do below 1 hour and 18 minute ahead of the Olympics. I will not think that I cannot win an Olympic medal in Rio,” he added.
Khushbir, who holds the national record, said that she had endured some pain in her feet, midway through her race, but managed to finish the race.
“I felt pain on my right leg from the 11km mark as the course has slope. While coming down (to the side of the road which has slope), you have the extra impact on the right leg and so the pain developed but I continued as I wanted to finish the race.
“It is a minor pain and it will go after a few days. I will be fully fit for the Asian 20km Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan on March 20,” she added.