India’s national record holder in men’s 20km race walk, KT Irfan announced his comeback to the international level by winning bronze at the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan on Sunday.
The Army athlete clocked 1 hour 20 minutes 59 seconds to come third behind Georgiy Sheiko of Kazakhstan (1:20:47) and Korea’s Kim Hyun-Sub (1:19:50).
The eventual winner was slow in the opening 5km, clocking 19 minutes 43 seconds, but picked up pace in the next five-km section to catch up the leading group. He upped the pace further to cross the finish line nearly a minute ahead of Sheiko. It was Kim’s third consecutive gold in the event.
After battling injuries for the past one year, Irfan struggled to achieve Rio Olympic qualification mark, but was impressive in the national race walking competition last month, which was the season’s first competition.
During the national meet, Irfan clocked 1:22:43.48 to qualify for the World Championships to be held in London in August.
Before leaving for the Asian meet, Irfan had said that he had reserved his best for the continental meet. He proved it on Sunday by notching up an impressive time. His overall performance in Nomi also indicates he might improve his national record of 1:20.21 set during the 2012 London Olympic Games further. He missed the Rio Olympic Games as his training was interrupted by injury.
In the women’s section, India’s best bet Priyanka finished fourth. She clocked 1:37:42. China’s Wang Na won gold with a time of 1:30:51, while Japan’s Kumiko Okada got silver in 1:33:31. Korea’s Yeongeun Jeon took the bronze (1:34:35).