Aspiring athletes aiming to cement their place in the national squad for the July 26 to August 11 Paris Olympic Games are both mentally and physically tuned to deliver the goods during the 11th edition of the Indian Open Race Walking competition.
The two-day season opening domestic platform, an Olympic qualifying competition will be held at the picturesque Sukhna Lake.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) will also select the national team for the inaugural marathon race walking mixed relay. The four-leg event comprises one male and one female athlete. Each athlete will cover approximately 10km in each leg.
Top 22 teams will get automatic qualification during the World Athletics Race Walk Team Championships to be held in Antalya. Turkey on April 20-21.
The women’s 20km race is wide open, but a keen contest is on cards in the men’s 20km event.
Top three positions in the men’s 20km is expected to be contested between Akashdeep Singh, national record holder, Vikash Singh, Asian bronze medalist, Paramjeet Bisht and Suraj Panwar.
Of the above four athletes, the 23 years old Suraj Panwar from Uttarakhand looked hungry. Reason: Last year he clocked 1:20:11 to narrowly miss the Paris Olympic Games qualification time of 1:20:10. “I will try my best to breach the Olympic Games qualification time,” Suraj Panwar said of his Tuesday’s plan.
The qualification period for race walkers started December 31, 2022 and will end on June 30, 2024. Akashdeep Singh, Vikash Singh and Paramjeet Bist, however, have already achieved Paris qualification time last year and are looking ahead to further cement their positions in the team. Each national federation is entitled to send three athletes in the 20km race walk.
“I’m taking the season opening competition in Chandigarh very seriously,” the 27 years old Vikash Singh from Delhi, said after his Monday practice session. Vikash Singh, in fact had emerged the most successful race walker in 2023 season. The Delhi race walker set a personal best of 1:20:05 in Japan in March 2023 to better the Paris Olympic qualification time of 1:20:10.
Later in the 2023 season he won bronze at the Asian meet held in Thailand. He clocked 1:21:58 to finish 27th at the Budapest World Athletics Championships. The men’s 20km race scheduled for Tuesday has attracted as many as 51 athletes. While 21 athletes will jostle for top three positions in the women’s 20km. Priyanka Goswami has qualified in the women’s 20km group. Priyanka will skip the Chandigarh competition as she is practicing in Australia in preparation for the Paris Olympic Games.
The men’s 35km will see 26 athletes competing for medals, the women’s 35km has attracted eight entries only. Apart from the senior group, competition will also be organised in the U-20 boys and girls section. The distance in the junior group will be 10km.
Two athletes from Sri Lanka, including one female will also compete in the 20km event.
The competition will start at 10am.