Soumya sets national record, claims gold in National Race Walking Championships

New Delhi, Feb 18: Soumya B shattered a national record en route to winning a gold medal in the women’s 20 km event at the Enerzal National Race Walking Championships in New Delhi on Sunday. Soumya, originally from Kerala but representing Delhi where she serves in the CRPF, produced a blistering finish in the final lap of the race to cross the finish line in 1:31:28.72 seconds. In doing so she beat the previous mark of 1:31:40.00 set by Khushbir Kaur in Taicang in 2014.

Saumya’s surge infact saw her overtaking Kaur who had led the field in each of the previous 19 laps of the race. Kaur would finish second with a time of 1:32:16.96 seconds. In third place was Khushbir’s sister Karamjit Kaur who clocked 1:34:08.60 seconds.

The win was the biggest for Soumya who slashed nearly 10 minutes off her previous best time of 1:41:04 recorded at the National Inter State athletics championships last year.

“I am so happy to have won this race. Last year I was returning from an injury but now I am in very good shape,” said Soumya who was awarded her gold medal by CK Valson (secretary Athletics Federation of India) and PK Srivastava (treasurer AFI) in the presence of Olympic gymnast Deepa Karmakar, her coach Bisheshwar Nandi and Ajit Ravindran, the founder of Meraki which promoted the event.

“This is the first time I am beating Khushbir. It is a very important win for me. I will go to the Commonwealth Games because of this performance. It will be my first international tournament,” said Soumya, who also met the qualifying standard of 1:33.00 seconds set by the AFI for the event.

On the other hand silver medalist Kaur was satisfied with her performance. “I felt a pain in my body in the final lap so I slowed down a little. But I am not worried. My goal was simply to finish under the qualification standard here and I managed to do that,” she said.

In the men’s 20km, event, KT Irfan pipped Manish Rawat in a near photo finish battle between Olympians. Irfan, who first put race walk on the map in India with his 10th place finish at the London Olympics, clocked 1:21:31:25 to claim gold. In second place was Manish Rawat of Uttrarakhand. Rawat, who had finished 13th at the Rio Olympics, clocked in 1:21:31.72 seconds. Neeraj of Haryana completed the podium with a time of 1:21:39.20. All three walkers finished inside the AFI’s qualification standard for the Commonwealth Games of 1:23:00 seconds. While Irfan was far from his national record of 1:20.21.00 seconds, he was confident about his prospects for the future. “I was not in good form after suffering a stress fracture in my ankle in 2014. I was giving good timing but it was not enough to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Now that I have qualified for the Commonwealth Games, I want to finish inside the 1 hour 19 minutes and 30 seconds mark. It is a difficult target but I want to try for that timing,” said Irfan who was awarded a prize of 30000 rupees, part of the 2,00,000 in prize money handed to athletes at the event.