20km Race Walking Championship: KT Irfan bags title, clean sweep by Army athletes
KT Irfan claiming the top spot as Army athletes completed a clean sweep in the 20km Race Walking Championship.other sports Updated: Feb 18, 2017 14:25 IST
Army athletes made a clean sweep in the men’s 20km Race Walking Championship on Saturday, with Olympian KT Irfan claiming the top spot.
His winning time of one hour 22 minutes and 43.48 seconds was nearly two minutes slower than his personal best of 1:20:21.00 seconds he had set during the 2012 London Olympics Games. However, he expressed satisfaction saying it was his first competition of the season. “The weather was good, but there was no point pushing hard since I was confident of winning. Since the Asian meet in March is just four weeks away I have reserved my best for the event,’’ said Irfan.
The top-three finishers were, in fact, bunched together with Irfan making a dash to the finish line in the last 20 metres. Teammate Devender Singh was second in 1:22:43.59 seconds while Ganpati K was third in 1:22.57.86 seconds.
By winning the national title, Irfan also made a comeback to the top as he had been languishing on the sideline due to injuries, which forced him to miss the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“I also wasn’t able to give my best as my training was constantly interrupted by injuries,” he said, adding “I am on track now. My focus this year is the world meet in August,” he said.
While Irfan set the pace on Saturday, another seasoned athlete Gurmeet Singh suffered a setback as he was warned thrice for running and disqualified at the 19km mark.
In the women’s section, the top place went to Priyanka of ONGC in the absence of Incheon Asian Games silver-medallist Khushbir Kaur. Her winning time was 1:37.58.32 seconds.
MS Shanti Kumar and Rani Yadav, both Railways, were second and third, respectively.
Based on the performance of athletes in the event, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) will select the team for the Asian Race Walk competition to be held in Japan next month.
Sandeep Kumar of Haryana improved his national mark in men’s 50km race walk, clocking 3:55.59.05 seconds. He previous best of 3:56.22.00 was set in 2014 in an international meet in China.
On two prominent athletes, Khushbir Kaur and Manish Singh Rawat, skipping the event, chief national coach Alexander Artsybashev said they were unwell. “They had fever so had to skip the event,” he said.
However, AFI secretary-general CK Valson said, he wasn’t aware that Khushbir and Manish were unwell. “They were in the camp in Bengaluru and were healthy. No one informed us about their illness,” he said, adding, “Only those athletes who competed here shall be considered for the Asian meet.
In fact, the two were brand ambassadors of the event. It is learnt that the two were told that they need not compete in the meet and should, instead, prepare for Asian meet in March. The coach however, didn’t inform the federation of the development.