Keralite athlete KT Irfan became the first Indian from athletics to qualify for the next year’s Olympics while finishing fourth in the 20 km event of the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan. He is already national record holder.
The 29-year-old athlete clocked 1 hour 20 minutes and 57 seconds to better the Tokyo Olympics qualification standard of 1 hour 21 minutes. The Olympics qualification period for race walk events and marathon race has begun from January 1 this year and will run till May 31, 2020.
The Olympics qualification period for all other athletics events will start from May 1 this year and will run till June 29, 2020. No other Indian athlete has qualified for Tokyo Olympics so far.
Irfan, who has a personal best as well as the national record of 1:20:21 which he did while finishing at the10th spot in 2012 Olympics, has qualified for this year’s World Championships (September 27-October 6) in Doha, Qatar by bettering the qualifying mark of 1:22:30.
The race walker had won the 20 km event in the National Open Race Walk Championships in Chennai last month with a time of 1:26:18
Toshikazu Yamanishi of Japan has won the 20 km race walk event with an impressive time of 1:17:15 while Kazakhstan’s Georgiy Sheiko and Korea’s Byeongkwang Choe were second and third in 1:20:21 and 1:20:40 respectively. The Asian and World record in men’s 20 km race walk stands in the name of Japanese Yusuke Suzuki who clocked 1:16:36 in the 2015 edition of the same championships in Nomi.
Two other Indians, Devinder Singh and Ganapathi Krishnan also qualified for the World Championships as they clocked 1:21:22 and 1:22:12 respectively. They had finished second and fifth in the Chennai National Race Walk Championships with timings of 1:26:19 and 1:26:43.
In the women’s 20 km race walk event, Soumya Baby finished fourth with a timing of 1:36:08, well outside Olympics qualifying standard of 1:31:00 and World Championships qualifying standard of 1:33:30.