Indian race walkers target medals at Asian Games
New Delhi, Sep 14 (IANS)
Indian race walkers are going the extra mile as they target medals at the Asian Games, starting Friday in the South Korean city of Incheon.
Olympian Irfan Thodi, who finished 10th at the 2012 London Olympics, Ganapathy K. and Khusbir Kaur are India's hopes in the 20-km walk while Olympian Basant Bahadur Rana and national record holder Sandeep Kumar will be taking part in the 50-km category.
Chief coach Alexander Artsybashev, who hails from the Siberian city of Chelyabinsk, has been making the walkers race 10-km extra to raise their endurance. While Irfan, Ganpathy and Khusbir are racing 30 km everyday, Rana and Sandeep are doing 60 km.
"The walkers have been racing 10 km extra everyday. It is definitely a positive trend. The idea is to increase the endurance levels of the walkers," said Alexander, who has been with the Indian team since 2011, here Sunday before the walkers left for Incheon.
"I don't like the idea of too many meets. When I came to India in 2011, there were just two race walkers, now we have 15 in the elite group. My job is to ensure the maximum performance but not promising the gold medal. I can ensure that all five walkers are in perfect shape. I have some high hopes from the season leaders and expect them to carry their good form into the Asian Games."
Alexander said the Asiad is also a step towards the 2016 Olympics.
"All five walkers have done hard work and I sincerely appreciate it. I am sure they will put up a strong fight. The Asian Games are another step towards the Olympics and I feel this is just the beginning," said the Russian.
Rana said preparations have been good.
"Our preparations have been very good. We are walking around 800-1,000 km every month. We had a good show in the recently concluded Asian Championships in China and hopefully we will continue the good run in the Asian Games as well," said Rana.
Sandeep, who set a national record in the World Race Walking Cup in May, said all five have the ability to win medals.
"Everybody has given their best and we all are close to winning medals. We are no less than any other Asian country. We have got good support during our training. We really want to make the country proud," he said.
Khusbir, who won the bronze in the Asian Race Walking Championship in March, is excited about going to Incheon.
"I am really excited about the Asian Games and hope to do well in Incheon. It has been a good year for me and I hope to carry on the good form," she said.