Indian Open Race Walking Championships: Focus on young brigade in the men’s 20km race walk

Amit Khatri, India’s World U20 silver medalist in the 10km race walk, is all set to make his senior debut on Saturday in the men’s 20km event of the ninth Indian Open Race Walking Championships in Ranchi.

The Ranchi tournament will be Khatri’s first domestic competition this year over a distance of 20km. The event was scheduled to be held in February, but the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) postponed it due to the pandemic.

Last month, Khatri competed in the junior 10km race at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Muscat. The Indian athlete was expected to add another global medal to his kitty in Muscat, but was unsuccessful as he was disqualified by the judges for breaking contact with the ground thrice during the competition.

At the inaugural edition of the national U23 Athletics Championships held last year in Delhi, the promising race walker from Haryana settled for silver in the 20km race. The race was organized on the 400m oval track and not on the road.

Khatri’s personal coach Chandan Singh has hopes of a podium finish in Ranchi.

“There are good bunch of young athletes in the men’s 20km race, but we are expecting good result from Khatri,” Singh said.

The competition, which will act as a qualifying event for the Commonwealth and Asian Games, will also see Suraj Panwar, the national U23 champion, and Arshdeep Singh, the All India Inter-University Champion, fighting for top positions.

“The men’s 20km race will be challenging as several youngsters are eagerly looking forward to making an impact at the national level,” Athletics coach Anoop Bisht said.

Olympian and defending champion Sandeep Kumar will also go all out in the race on Saturday to cement his position as the No. 1 in the country. Kumar is confident of staying ahead of the young brigade and is ready for the challenge.

“I don’t think I will face strong opposition in the race,” the national record holder said. “I’m mentally and physically prepared to defend my title.”

There are as many as 23 elite athletes in the men’s Group A 20km race, while AFI has received 17 entries in Group B 20km.

The men’s 35km scheduled for Sunday will see top athletes like Chandan Singh and Ram Baboo jostling for top positions. The distance in the U20 group will be 10km.

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee

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