India, the country of 1.3 billion people, has historically struggled to make a mark in the Olympic Games. But in the last decade or so, especially after Abhinav Bindra’s Gold medal, efforts have been made to improve the nation’s performance in one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Indian athletes bagged three medals in 2008, record six in 2012 but came down to just two in Rio.

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However, one positive was that the number of athletes from India in the Olympics had risen from 67 in Beijing to 117 in Rio. A lot is expected from Indian athletes in the next year’s Olympics, with a number of medal hopefuls.

Indian Race walker Irfan K.T
Indian Race walker Irfan K.T Qualified for the Summer Games 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Men’s 20 km Walk

National record holder Irfan K.T 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 29-year-old, Irfan clocked 1 hour 20 minutes and 57 seconds to better the Tokyo Olympics qualification standard of 1 hour 21 minutes.

Indian Race walker Irfan K.T Qualified

The road to redemption has not been smooth for KT Irfan. Seven years ago, the race-walker finished 10th in the 20km event at London Olympics with a national record of 1.20.21. If that raised expectations, a stress fracture in 2014 changed everything. He missed the bus to Rio Olympics in 2016 and last year, the Malappuram athlete was sent back from the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast for allegedly breaching the ‘no-needle policy’ against doping. For someone tagged as an Olympic-medal prospect, worse followed. He was disqualified from the Asian Games for a technical fault.

Irfan, who has a personal best as well as a national record of 1:20:21 which he did during his 10th place finish in 2012 Olympics, also qualified for this year’s World Championships (September 27-October 6) in Doha, Qatar as he bettered the qualifying mark of 1:22:30.

The Indian Kerala race walker won the 20 km event in the National Open Race Walk Championships in Chennai last month he clocked 1 hour 26 minutes 18 seconds. He was one of the two Indian athletes who were disqualified from the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for not following to the ‘no needle policy’ of the Games. Kerala was disqualified in the 20 km race walk event of the 2018 Asian Games after receiving his third warning for “loss of contact “.

The qualification period for Olympic 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.

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