Three race walkers qualify for Olympics; new national records in men's and women's 20km event

Priyanka Goswami and Sandeep Kumar at the National and International Race Walking Championships in Ranchi. AFI/Twitter

India's Sandeep Kumar, Rahul and Priyanka Goswami qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics following their performance at the National and International Race Walking Championships in Ranchi on Saturday.

Kumar and Goswami broke national records in the men's and women's 20km events respectively.

The National Open Race Walking Championships are the first major athletics event post the Covid-19 lockdown.

With the three new entrants, the total number of Indian race walkers who have qualified for the Tokyo Games has swelled to five as KT Irfan (men's 20km) and Bhawana Jat (women's 20km) have already made the cut earlier.

Sandeep clocked a time of 1:20.16 to win the men's group A event, while Goswami emerged victorious in the women's group A event with a time of 1:28.45. Rahul finished second in the men's event with a time of 1:20.26.

The Olympics qualification time set for the men's and women's 20km race walk event are 1:21:00 and 1:31:00 respectively. A country can send a maximum of three athletes in an individual event.

Sandeep, who represented India in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 50km race walk event, bettered the earlier national record of 1:20.21, which was jointly held by Irfan and Devender Singh.

Irfan could not finish the race on Saturday. He had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in March 2019 during the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan.

Goswami, on the other hand, erased the earlier women's national record of 1:29:54 which was in the name of Bhawana, who finished second in the race with a time of 1:32.59.

Bhawana had qualified for the Olympics by winning the women's 20km event in the last edition of the National Race Walking Championships in February last year.

Besides the five race walkers, javelin throwers Neeraj Chopra and Shivpal Singh, 3000m steeplechaser Avinash Sable and the 4x400m mixed relay team have also qualified for the Olympics in track and field.

The Olympics are scheduled to be held in July-August this year.