Akshdeep Singh battles with Suraj Panwar for gold; both improves national men’s 20km race walk record

India’s promising race walkers — Punjab’s 24 years old Akshdeep Singh and 23 years old Suraj Panwar from Uttarakhand battled for supremacy in the 11th edition of the Indian Open Race Walking competition here on Tuesday. Enroute to breaching the national men’s 20km record, both the athletes bettered the Paris Olympic Games qualification time of 1:20:10.

In fact conducive weather conditions at this time of the year in Chandigarh enabled top four athletes in the men’s 20km race walk to better the Olympic Games qualification time. Initially, photo-finish results indicated the top two athletes were within the Olympic Games qualification time. Later as per chip timings four athletes were within the Paris Games qualification standard.

Day’s honour however went to Askdeep Singh who crossed the finish line at 1:19:38 to win back-to-back national titles. His gold medal winning time was an improvement of his previous national record of 1:19:55 clocked last year at Indian Open Race Walking competition held in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

Suraj Panwar’s Tuesday performance of 1:19:44.00 gave him a chance to join the group of Olympic qualifiers including Akshdeep Singh. Paramjeet Singh Bisht and Vikash Singh were successful in achieving the Paris Olympic Games qualification time in 2023. On Tuesday, both Paramjeet Singh Bisht and Vikash Singh finished in the top ten.

Servin of Tamil Nadu finished third (1:20:03.00) in the men’s 20km, while Arshpreet Singh of Punjab fourth (1:20:04.00). Both the athletes have also bettered the Olympic Games qualification mark in Chandigarh.

Only three athletes will be eligible to represent India at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, as per World Athletics qualification guidelines, Radhakrishnan Nair, chief athletics coach said. The final selection will take place later in June.

Akshdeep Singh was confident of sustaining his efforts in coming weeks to cement his place in the national team. “Will have to work smart to stay away from injuries and sustain my performance in coming weeks,” the 24 years old said in post-race interaction.

Suraj Panwar, who had agonisingly missed the Olympic Games qualification mark last year in Ranchi and have had to battle injuries in the last 10 months, was elated to bounce back into contention for the Olympic Games berth. “It was a great day for me to have broken the one hour 20 minutes barrier in the 20km race walk today in Chandigarh,” Suraj Panwar added. “My job in the coming days will be to stay healthy and maintain my fitness.”

In the women’s 20km race walk, Punjab’s Manju Rani was happy to have won gold in her first race over the 20km. “It was a good day for me. I’m happy to have clocked a 1:33:00.00 in the season opening race to win gold,” Manju Rani said who switched to a shorter distance of 35km.

Olympian and national record holder, Priyanka Goswami has already qualified for the Paris Olympic Games in 2023 season. She skipped the Chandigarh competition as she was practicing in Australia.

Competition in U20 boys and girls was also conducted.

Results: Men 20km: Akshdeep Singh (Punjab) 1:19:38, Suraj Panwar (Uttarakhand) 1:19:44.00, Servin (Tamil Nadu) 1:20:03.00. Arshpreet Singh (Punjab) 1:20:04.00

Women: 20km: Manju Rani (Punjab) 1:33:00.00, Payal (Uttarakhand) 1:33:28.00, Munita Prajapati (Uttarakhand) 1:34.14.00

Girls: U20: 10km: Aarti (Haryana) 47:03.00 NR (49:01.00 Mansi Negi in 2021), Vaishnavi Negi (Uttarakhand) 49:31.00, Chakpram Naocha C (Manipur) 51:21.00.

Boys: U20: 10km: Himanshu Kumar (Uttarakhand) 41:11.00, Aditya Negi (Uttarakhand) 41:12.00, Roshan Kumar (Jharkhand) 41:28.00.