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Soumya B sets new record in 20km race walk, earns ticket to Commonwealth Games

Soumya B and KT Irfan won the women’s and men’s 20 km events at the National Race Walking Championship in New Delhi on Sunday.

other sports Updated: Feb 18, 2018 23:07 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Soumya B,Commonwealth Games,Khushbir Kaur
KT Irfan won the 20 km event at the National Race Walking Championship being held in New Delhi.(HT Photo)

Delhi-based Soumya B upset the fancied Khushbir Kaur to win the women’s 20km at the National Race Walking Championship here on Sunday. She also improved Khushbir’s four-year-old national record of 1:31:40 seconds by clocking 1:31.28.72 secs. The timing was well within the Commonwealth Games (CWG) qualification mark of one hour 35 minutes. Karamjit Kaur of Haryana finished third.

The men’s race was keenly contested between KT Irfan and Manish Singh Rawat, with Irfan crossing the line in 1:21.31.25 secs for his season’s best. Rawat, who was 13th at the Rio Olympic Games, finished at 1:21.31.72 secs. Neeraj of Haryana took the third place at 1:21.39.20. All three achieved the 1 hour 22 minute qualification time for CWG.

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Soumya’s plan was to stay close to the more experienced Khushbir, but it went for a toss as Khushbir, silver medallist at the Incheon Asian Games, surged ahead and opened up a gap on the leading group of six athletes.

Soumya didn’t wilt under pressure and waited for the right moment to strike. She was successful in closing the 80-metre gap in the final stretch. The move not only helped her earn a ticket to CWG in Australia, starting April 4, but also improved her personal best by more than nine minutes.

“The victory is sweet as I am coming off a long layoff due to a knee injury. The idea was to stay in the top two to win a ticket to CWG. But the record is a big bonus,” said Soumya.

A former distance runner from Thiruvananthapuram who switched to race walking five years ago, Soumya said the victory had boosted her confidence. ‘’My next goal is to break the 1:30 barrier and aim for a good performance at CWG.”

If Soumya, employed with the Central Reserve Police Force in Delhi, was celebrating, Khushbir was clueless after dominating the race till the 18-km mark. She said her focus was to achieve 1:34 and qualify for the CWG. Trying to conceal her disappointment, Khushbir said her timing at training was 1:30 and losing the No 1 spot to Soumya wasn’t a worry.

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Besides Soumya and Khushbir, the other athletes to achieve the CWG qualifying mark were Karamjit and Shanti Kumari. Of the 20 athletes, only 15 completed the race.

CK Valson, secretary general of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), said only the top three positions in the men’s group were declared and the remaining results withheld due to protests. “Some athletes cut short the route, we have to cross check and will then announce the complete results,” he said.

The top-three athletes in both events were given cash awards of Rs.30,000, Rs.25,000 and Rs.20,000.

Top athletes to skip Asian meet

Top athletes will skip the Asian Race Walking Championship in Japan in March. “Since the focus is on CGW, we will not send leading athletes to Japan as they will not be unable to recover in three weeks. The gap between the Asian meet and CWG is too less, therefore, we will suggest to the selection panel to field a second string for the continental competition,” said Valson.

The AFI selection panel will meet here on Monday to finalise the team for the Asian and CWG competition. “After today’s (Sunday) race, it will take two weeks to recover so I have opted out of the Asian meet,” said Irfan, happy with his performance in the season’s first competition.

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“Before the Rio Olympics, I was suffering from stress fracture. I am getting back to shape and will hopefully improve my personal best of 1:20.21 secs (set in 2012 London Games),” he said.


20km race walk

Men: KT Irfan (Kerala) 1:21.31.25 secs, Manish Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand) 1:21. 31.72 secs, Neeraj Kumar (Haryana) 1:21.39.20.

Women: Soumya B (Delhi) 1:31.28.72 secs (NR), Khushbir Kaur (AFI) 1:32.16.96 secs, Karamjit Kaur (Haryana) 1:34.08.60 secs

First Published: Feb 18, 2018 17:43 IST