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Sports Shorts: Irfan become first Indian athlete to qualify for 2020 Olympics

Last updated on: March 17, 2019 22:28 IST

Summary of sports events and persons who made news on Saturday

National record holder KT Irfan on Sunday 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.

KT IrfanIndia's KT Irfa (exteme right). Photograph: Getty Images

The 29-year-old Irfan 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 began on 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 from athletics has so far qualified for Tokyo Olympics.

Irfan, who has a personal best as well as 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 Kerala 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.

He was one of the two Indian athletes who were expelled from the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for not adhering to the 'no needle policy' of the Games. He was disqualified in the 20 km race walk event of the 2018 Asian Games after receiving his third warning for "loss of contact".

Japan's Toshikazu Yamanishi 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.

"Mentally, I am feeling relaxed now. It is good that I have achieved the Olympics qualification mark very early in the season. There is more than a year now to train and prepare for the Olympics," Irfan said after qualifying for the Tokyo Games.

"Today it was raining constantly here in Nomi and it was cold. I could not warm-up properly because of cold and was a bit slow in first two laps else my target was to finish in first three," he added.

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 20km 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.

Annu Rani re-writes national record, qualifies for World C’ships

Javelin thrower Annu Rani rewrote her own national record to clinch the gold and qualify for both the Asian and World Championships on the third and penultimate day of the Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championships in Patiala on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Rani, who represented Uttar Pradesh, hurled the spear to a distance of 62.34m, nearly half a metre more than her earlier national record of 61.86m that she recorded in 2017. Her effort bettered the qualifying standard of 61.50m for the World Championships to be held in Doha in September-October later this year.

She also qualified for the Asian Championships, also to be held in Doha next month, for which the qualifying standard of 58m was set by the Athletics Federation of India.

Haryana's Kumari Sharmila won the silver with a throw of 54.98m while Rupinder Kaur of Punjab was third with an effort of 53.90m at the National Institute of Sports grounds here.

Lavit Murali Kumar, an adivasi athlete who worked as part time labourer in road construction in Dang district of Gujarat, won the men's 10000m race to qualify for the Asian Championships.

Kumar, who had won the men's 5000m race on the first day of the event, crossed the finish line in 29.21.99 to win his second gold of the meet, bettering the Asian Championships qualification mark of 29 minutes 50 seconds.

"On Sundays and two months in between school annual exam and new session, I used to work as daily wage labourer in road construction in my place and earned Rs 150 a day. That was in 2013 and 2014. I used the money in buying running shoes," said the 22-year-old who hails from a village near Saputara hill station in Dang.

"My parents are adivasis and you know they do not have regular income. Athletics is costly, a pair of running shoes costs Rs 5000. But I got selected to the Bhopal Athletics Academy in 2015 after a trial and I am currently training there. Gujarat government also helped me a lot. Under the Shaktidoot Scheme, I got Rs 5 lakh in 2016 after winning medals at international level.

"My aim is to do well in the Asian Championships and qualify for the World Championships. My ultimate aim is the Olympic Games," he added.

After class X, he shifted to Open School system and last year he failed in the English paper of the 12th exam. He took the English compartment exam this year.

"If I pass, I will take up a job, may be in police or income tax. At the same time, I will study and complete graduation (not regular course) and run at the same time," Kumar, who won 3000m and 5000m races in Gujarat Khel Mahakumbha and got Rs 5000 as prize money, said.

Rani, on the other hand, has been in the athletics circuit for some time, winning a bronze each in the 2014 Asian Games and 2017 Asian Championships but consistency has never been her forte. In 2017, she created the then national record of 61.86m but all other performances that year were below 60m.

Last year, her best show was a 57.37m. She was not initially selected for the 2018 Asian Games but later made a 'backdoor' entry on the basis of her performance in the Inter-Railway Meet. A medal was in her reach in Jakarta, but she could only come up with a 53.93m to finish sixth.

"Yes, you can say there has been a sort of mental block as I was not being able to do my best during competition. I was doing well during practice but it was not getting translated on the field. I focused a lot on this metal aspect and it came off good today," Rani said.

"I have been in that lean form for some time and it happens to athletes. I hope my performance graph will be now on the up."

Rani said she improved her technique with the help of coach Baljeet Singh, who has been with her for the last few months.

"We have made changes in her technique. The speed of her hand was slowing down at the point of release and we worked on that. The angle of release was still high even today. Earlier, she was throwing wide and so we worked on her angle of throw.  Also, she was getting the power from the side of her body," Singh said.

"We worked to make changes in all these, and that too in the two-three months I have been with her."

 Four other runners also crossed the Asian Championships qualification standard in men's 10,000m race besides Kumar but only two out of five can take part in the continental meet in Doha next month.

Uttar Pradesh's Abhishek Pal was second with a time of 29.22.37 and the bronze went to Kalidas Hirave of Maharashtra who clocked 29.25.16. Defending champion Tamil Nadu's G Lakshmanan was fourth clocking 29.26.41 and Vasudev Nishad of UP came fifth with a timing of 29.31.42.

While she didn't manage to meet the AFI guidelines, Kerala's Krishna Rachan set a new meet record in the women's pole vault competition.

The 25-year-old improved on V Surekha's five-year-old meet record of 4.05m by clearing a height of 4.06m. The jump was also a new personal best for Rachan, who had a previous best of 3.95m recorded in Bhubaneswar in 2018.

Haryana's clinched the gold in women's triple jump with a best effort of 13.48m ahead of Punjab's Niharika Vashisht who had a best jump of 13.05m and Asian Indoor Games silver medallist Sheena NV who had a best effort of 13.04m.

Happy that Chess is back in Asian Games: Anand

The legendary Vishwanathan Anand along with other top players welcomed the return of chess to the Asian Games fold for the 2022 edition in Hangzhou, stating that it will be an incentive for players to take up the sport.

Five-time World Champion and the country's first Grand Master Anand said he was happy with the development adding that he looks forward to a medal from the team.

"I am happy about the development. I look forward to a medal from our team," Anand told PTI.

Chess was a part of Asian Games programme at the 2006 edition in Doha and 2010 in Guangzhou. India won two gold medals in Doha, with Koneru Humpy capturing the top prize in the women's rapid individual event and the mixed team winning the standard event gold.

In the 2010 edition, the Indian men won a bronze in the standard team event while D Harika took the bronze in the women's individual (rapid) event.

Grand Master Baskaran Adhiban, who is playing in the World Team Championship in Astana (Kazakshtan), said having chess back in the Asiad is "wonderful news" and added it would bring incentives to the players.

"It is good for the sport and the players, who will stand to receive lot of incentives, which is nice," he added.

Adhiban was been part of the Indian team that took part in the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010.

The All-India Chess Federation (AICF) Vice-President DV Sundar welcomed the news.

"Chess was part of the Asian Games programme in 2006 and 2010 and it is great that it is back. India has a very good chance of winning medals," he said.

Sundar said the players also will be happy that chess has made a comeback and expected a team event and individual event to be part of the games.

The OCA General Assembly met in Bangkok on March 3 and its president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad Al-Sabah officially confirmed the development to World Chess Federation (WCF) president Arkady Dvorkovich.

GM RB Ramesh, now a noted coach, whose trainees include R Praggnanandhaa, the world's third youngest GM behind Sergey Karjakin and Chennai lad D Gukesh, said the move to re-induct chess in the Asiad is fantastic for the game and would provide an incentive to the players to turn out for the country and possibly win medals.

"They will be eligible for Dronacharya and Arjuna awards on par with other Asian Games sports," he added.

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