Ranchi, February 12: India’s Olympic Games-bound race walkers. KT Irfan and Bhawana Jat will be the cynosure in the eighth National Open Race Walking Championships on the Morabadi Road in Ranchi over the weekend. They will start favourites to win the men and women’s 20km race walk competitions.
Interestingly, the Championships will see 35km races being staged in India for the first time in the wake of World Athletics decision to do away with 50km walk after Tokyo 2020. This weekend will give seven of the country’s best race walkers, including two women, the chance to qualify for the World Race Walking Championships 2022, scheduled to be held in Taicang, China.
Priyanka Goswami (Uttar Pradesh) and Sonal Sukhwal (Rajasthan) will attempt to meet the qualification standard by covering the distance inside 2 hours 54 minutes while the seasoned Ganapathi Krishnan (Tamil Nadu), Manish Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand) and Sandeep Kumar (Haryana) will try to breach the 2 hours 35 minute standard fixed by World Athletics.
As many as 17 men, including the defending champion Sanam Damen Singh (Manipur), last year’s runner-up Gurpreet Singh (Punjab) and the other podium finisher Anjani Kumar Singh (Uttar Pradesh) will compete in the 50km event.
A number of junior athletes who have caught the eye in the past fortnight in the Federation Cup Junior U20 and National Junior Championships will be taking part. The likes of Munita Prajapati and Reshma Patel, who broke the existing U20 National Records in these meets, will be out to showcase their consistency.
Athletics Federation of India has worked hard to ensure that three international race walking judges would be at hand to oversee the technical conduct of the championships. Fredric Bianchi (Switzerland), Martin Skarba (Slovakia) and Alexandru Stephan (Romania) will be the three overseas judges at hand.
AFI President Adille J. Sumariwalla thanked the Jharkhand Government and the Jharkhand Athletics Association for hosting the championships in Ranchi for the second year running. “Their dedicated effort and support have helped us stage the championships this year. They will ensure that the AFI and Sports Authority of India and local government SOPs are followed,” he said“I am delighted that we have already successfully completed many State Championships as well as the Federation Cup Junior U20 Championships in Bhopal last month and the National Junior Athletics Championships in Guwahati recently by following all safety measures,” he said. “I am sure we will see a high quality of competition in Ranchi.”