New Delhi, February 9th, 2017 – In a first of its kind association, Max Bupa Health Insurance has entered into a partnership with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to promote walking as a sport in the country. ‘Race Walking’ is the longest event (both in distance covered and time taken) at the Olympics, with a legacy of 400 years; however, the awareness about the sport is very limited in our country. To help build race walking as a mainstream sport and introduce the sport to the capital, Max Bupa will host the 4th edition of the National Race Walking Championship 2017, in the city on February 18 and 19.
Max Bupa National Race Walking Championships shall begin with a 20 kilometre and 50-kilometre race walk on 18th February and will conclude with the 10km race walk at the annual Max Bupa Walk for Health, an annual initiative that endeavours to make India a ‘walking’ nation, on 19th February. Walk for Health is the flagship health initiative of Max Bupa that is held in key metropolises each year to encourage people to walk more, with an ambition to build a healthier India. So far, the initiative has inspired over 1 lakh Indians across cities and age groups, to incorporate walking into their daily lifestyle.
Max Bupa National Race Walking Championship will see participation from over 200 national race walking champions. Some of the prominent names participating in the Max Bupa National Race Walking Championship are Manish Singh Rawat, Khusbhir Kaur, Gurmeet Singh, among others who were also participants in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The event shall serve as a selection trial for the Asian Race Walking Championship to be held at Nomi Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan, later this year. To ensure that the spirit of this association translates into a meaningful impact on the sport, the fund instituted this year is INR 4, 00,000, the highest that this sport has seen in the country. The funds will be utilised by each winner to further their training.
Adille Sumariwalla, AFI President said, “It is wonderful to see that a sport like ‘Race Walking’ is today gaining patrons like Max Bupa. Max Bupa is a leader in its segment and a trusted healthcare partner to millions. This partnership is a testimony to Max Bupa’s commitment to helping people lead healthier and more successful lives and highlights the important role of corporates in promoting sports culture in the country. The partnership will provide a big boost to the sport in the country because it is for the first-time National Race Walking Championships will be organised on such a grand scale. Our athletes are among the best in Asia and support from Max Bupa to the National Championships has come just at the right moment, as our team is preparing for the Asian Championships to be held next month in Japan. Last year, Gurmeet Singh created history by becoming the first Indian to win the Asian Championships 20km gold medal. Later, Manish tried hard in Rio Olympics and finished 13th among 68 competitors. We believe that this kind of support to the sporting events will help Indian athletes to do even better at the Tokyo 2020 Games.”
Speaking about the partnership, Ashish Mehrotra, MD & CEO, Max Bupa said, “It’s a great moment for us today as we enter into an alliance with the Athletic Federation of India to promote walking as a sport in the country. We, at Max Bupa, a have been consistently promoting the cause of Walking in India for the past five years under our flagship event ‘Max Bupa Walk for Health’. Through the alliance with AFI, our endeavour is to evangelise walking as a serious sport in India and encourage more and more Indians to incorporate walking into their daily lives our endeavour is to help ‘Race Walking’ gain recognition as a mainstream sport and inspire the nation to lead healthier, more successful lives.”
The competition will be held for under-20 men and women along with the senior men and women. Currently, India’s Devender Singh (1:20:21) and Manish Singh (1:20:26) are in the IAAF’s Top-30 list of 20km event. While Devender is ranked 28th in the world, Manish is placed 30th in the elite list. In the previous National Championships held in Jaipur last year, Gurmeet Singh (1:21:24) won the Men’s 20km event gold while Khushbeer Kaur (1:34:52) was the winner in the Women’s 20km competition. The Men’s 50km event gold medal was won by Basant Bahadur Rana (4:07:24). In the junior category, Vikash Singh (44:32:50) and Neena K.T. (53:12:49) were the winners in the Men’s 10km and Women’s 10km categories, respectively.