The world community of sports is still reeling under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of which included the cancelation of a host of events including the Tokyo Olympics 2020, UEFA Euro 2020, et al. Most of the sports tournaments like the Premier League, NBA, Australian Open, etc are still being played in the absence of fans.
The Tokyo Olympics have been rescheduled to take place between 23 July - 8 August 2021, and there is still a cloud of uncertainty as to whether the tournament will go ahead on the scheduled date or not.
Our athletes are gearing up for the event in full flow and even the mental stress the lockdowns put us under doesn't seem to have perturbed them. This was evident by the number of new national records created in the recently concluded U-20 National Junior Athletics Championship and the 8th National/4th International Race Walking Championship.
20km Walk race: a test of physical and mental endurance
The 20km Walk race is one of the most enduring events in the Olympics. It requires athletes to always keep in contact with the ground such that the leg supporting their body must remain straight until the raised leg passes it.
The latest major event to be organized before the Olympics which paved qualification for the 20km Walk race event was the 8th National/4th International Race Walking Championship at Ranchi.
In the men's 20km Walk race, Sandeep Kumar of Haryana secured passage to the Tokyo Olympics by winning gold with a timing of 1:20:16, while Rahul Kumar stood second by completing the race in 1:20:26. Sandeep Kumar's performance also saw him secure the national record for the 20km Walk race, while silver-medallist Rahul also achieved the Olympic qualification mark.
Our female athletes weren't too far behind as Priyanka Goswami of Uttar Pradesh achieved the Olympic qualification mark in the same event quite comfortably with a timing of 1:28:45. Her gold medal-winning performance was enough to rewrite the the national record for the women's 20km Walk event.
The qualification mark for the Olympics for this event for men is 1:21:00, while for women it is 1:31:00.
What are their chances at the Tokyo Olympics
The 20km Walk race is one of the most competitive events of the Olympics. The all-time record in the men's category belongs to Ding Chen of China, who finished with a timing of 1:18:46 at the London Olympics (2012). The best timing at the latest Rio Olympics was 1:19:14, while the bronze winning timing at the same event was 1:19:37.
Judging by the previous timings, both of our athletes would need to improve their performance by around a minute in order to be genuine contenders for a medal. It will indeed require a herculean effort, but at the moment, we can all have a semblence of hope and retain faith in the dedication and hard work of our athletes, and support them wholeheartedly in this endeavor.
The all-time record for the 20km Walk race among women belongs to Elena Lashmanova of Russia, who finished the race at the London Olympics with a timing of 1:25:02. The stats for the Rio Olympics provide encouragement, as the timing for Gold at Rio was 1:28:35 by Hong Liu of China, while in an extremely tight race the bronze medal was won by Xiuzhi Lu of China with a timing of 1:28:42.
If we go by the stats for the previous Olympics, Priyanka Goswami stands a good chance of bringing home a medal for the country. It is true that the climatic conditions in both countries are quite different, which may have had an impact on the final timings, but the timing achieved by Priyanka has still allowed us fans to dream.