RANCHI: Sandeep Kumar (Haryana) and Priyanka Goswami (Uttar Pradesh) became the first Indian athletes to qualify for next year’s World Athletics Championships Oregon22 when they broke the men and women’s 20km Race Walk National Records respectively on the 1km loop on the Morabadi Road here on Saturday.
Together with Rahul Kumar, who finished second in the men’s event, they also qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games to be held later this year. Both men are athletes from the Army Sports Institute They took the number of Indian race walkers who have made the grade to five, joining KT Irfan and Bhawana Jat. Their efforts have raised the number of Indian qualifiers to 14 so far.
The 34-year-old Sandeep Kumar, who competed in the 50km Race Walk in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, was just outside the Olympic qualifying standard (1:21:00) despite winning here last year in 1:21:34. He endured a year’s wait to attain his primary target. With Rahul hot on his heels through the first half of the race, he opened up the lead before the 15km mark.
Irfan (Kerala) trailed the leaders by nearly three seconds at the halfway stage dropped out of the race after 15km but Haryana’s Hardeep Singh shadowed him for 15 loops before pulling away to finish third behind Sandeep Kumar (1:20:16) and Rahul (1:20:26). Delhi’s Vikash Singh was unable to get past Hardeep over the final few loops and settled for fourth place.
The 24-year-old Priyanka Goswami, second to Bhawana Jat last year, was determination personified as she took the early lead and sustained her pace through the 20km to secure a victory, with Olympic and World Championships qualification to boot. A victory by just over four seconds gave her immense satisfaction as well.
Priyanka Goswami breached the Olympic Games and World Championships qualifying mark of 1:31:00 quite comfortably.
The winners today, who used the first opportunity to qualify for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 in July next year after the 18-month qualification window for the 20km Race Walks opened on December 27, 2020, were pleased that there were the mandated three international Race Walk judges at hand to oversee the races.
The results: Men 20km walk: 1. Sandeep Kumar (Haryana) 1:20:16 (New National Record. Old: 1:20:16, KT Irfan, London, 2012 and Devender Singh, Nomi, 2016); 2. Rahul Kumar (Haryana) 1:24:41; 3. Hardeep (Haryana) 1:47:47. Women 20km walk: 1. Priyanka Goswami (Uttar Pradesh) 1:28:45 (New National Record. Old: 1:31:29, Baby Sowmya, Delhi, 2018; Awaiting ratification 1:29.54, Bhawana Jat, Ranchi, 2020); 2. Bhawana Jat (Rajasthan) 1:32:59; 3. Sonal Sukwal (Rajasthan) 1:36:05. (Report & Picture: AFI Media)