Indian 20km race walkers produce disappointing performances at Worlds

Antalya (Turkey), Apr 21 (PTI) Indian athletes failed to make an impact in the prestigious World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships on Sunday as none of them came up with reassuring performances ahead of the Paris Olympics in July-August.
     All 10 athletes on show in the 20km events -- five each in men's and women's sections -- dished out below-par timings with Servin Sebastian being the only Indian to finish in the top-20 but he too was way off the timings he has set this year.
     Ram Baboo, the latest to achieve the Olympics men's 20km race walk qualification standard clocking a personal best of 1:20:00 in the Dudinska 50 Meet in Slovakia, exited around the 2km mark, while Sebastian, Vikash Singh, Paramjeet Singh and Suraj Panwar, who have also met the Olympics qualifying standards, performed way below potential despite conducive weather in the Mediterranean seaside town.
     Sebastian clocked 1:21.39 seconds, way off the Paris qualification time of 1:20.10 and the time of 1:20.03 he had set at the Indian Open Race Walking Competition on way to meeting the Olympic qualifying standard in January.
     Vikash Singh, who came up with his season's best performance of 1:21.59 here, finished 23rd while Suraj Panwar, with a time of 1:24.09, was a distant 40th among 76 athletes to finish the event.
     The fifth Indian in the fray, Arshpreet Singh, finished 66th clocking a dismal 1:33.39.
     In women's 20km race walk, none of the five Indian contenders for Paris berths could come anywhere close to the Olympic cut-off timing of 1:29:20, with Pooja Kumawat being the best finisher at 42nd with a time of 1:40.27.
     Manju Rani and Mokavi Muthurathinam were close at 43rd and 44th, clocking 1:40.31 and 1:40.33 respectively.
     The other two Indians, Ramandeep Kaur (142.12) and Payal (1:42.32) finished 49th and 50th respectively in an event where 63 athletes completed the race.
     The performance of the 20km race walk athletes will be of major concern for the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), given that they have to select the team for Paris out of the seven male athletes, who have met the Olympic qualifying standards, by June.
     Each national federation can only send a maximum of three athletes in the men's 20km race walk event and achieving the entry standard is just one part of the Olympic qualification. The difficult part is selecting the team, made even more difficult with Sunday's performance.
     There is, however, some hope from the pair of Priyanka Goswami and Akshdeep Singh who are expected to earn a Paris quota place in the gruelling Mixed Race Walk event, scheduled later in the day.
     Both Akshdeep and Priyanka have already qualified individually for Paris 2024 after meeting the qualifying standards in the men's and women's 20km race walk, and securing a Mixed team spot at the Olympics will be the icing on the cake for them.
     The other Indian pair in the Mixed event is Munita Prajapati and Paramjeet Singh.

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)