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Sandeep Kumar clinches 50km gold at National Race Walking Championship

The 31-year-old, representing Haryana, clocked 3:56:39.71 to win gold; but his timing was around 40 seconds slower than his national record of 3:56:00.

Sandeep Kumar clinches 50km gold at National Race Walking Championship
File photo of India's 50 km race-walker Sandeep Kumar (Reuters)

New Delhi: National record-holder Sandeep Kumar hardly broke a sweat as he easily clinched gold in men's 50 km event while Priyanka Patel shattered the under-20 national record in women's 10 km category in the National Race Walking Championship here today.

The 31-year-old Sandeep, representing Haryana, clocked 3 hours 56 minute and 39.71 seconds to win the 50km race walk event. His timing was around 40 seconds slower than his own national record of 3:56:00 set in the National Championships here last year.

Jitendra Singh Rathore (3:58:55.82) of Services bagged the silver while S Damen Singh, also of Haryana, took the bronze in 4:00:34.48.

Patel, representing Uttar Pradesh, won the women's U-20 10km event in national record timing of 49:01.81. Another Uttar Pradesh athlete Bandana Patel took the silver in 51:23.52 while Ramandeep Kaur of Punjab won the bronze in 52:12.18.

A B.A. Second year student from Varanasi, Patel has been training at Bhopal SAI Center since 2014.

The earlier national record in this category stood at 49:16.51 which was set in 2004 by Priyanka Goswami of Uttar Pradesh.

The gold in men's U-20 10km event went to Akshdeep Singh of Punjab (43:04.65). Haryana athletes Hardeep and Manjeet won the silver and bronze respectively in 43:36.62 and 43:36.67.

"This is my fourth gold in 50km race walk event in the last five National Championships, so I am very happy. I finished fourth in the last Asian Games and my target is to win a medal in the upcoming Asian Games. I am also looking forward to doing well in the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships (May 5-6 at Taicang, China)," Sandeep said after the event.

"In international competitions, you have competitors who push you and you also are given a pace-setter through a motorcycle. Even if you remove just 1 second every lap you could make a big difference in your final time."

Sandeep, who had finished 34th in 2016 Rio Olympics 50km Race Walk event, is likely to be considered for the Asian Games even though the Athletics Federation of India had issued guidelines under which 3:55:00 is the qualifying time for the event.

"These qualifying guidelines are not cut in stone. It's preferable if an athlete crosses these guidelines but we will see later whether an athlete has a chance to win a medal or not. We will do it nearer the Asian Games," AFI Secretary C K Valson said.

Sandeep shifted his training base from Bengaluru SAI Center to NIS Patiala recently and he said he did it due to his problems with coach Alexander Artsybashev.

"I was having issues with the coach. Improvement in the performance of an athlete comes only if there is understanding with the coach but he (Alexander) had stopped listening to me. I requested the AFI that I be allowed to train under another coach. AFI accepted and I am now at NIS Patiala training under Surender Kumar sir," he said.

"I qualified for 2017 World Championships in London in both 20 km and 50 km but he (Alexander) cut out my name and put K Ganapathi's (20 km event) instead. He put Ganapathi in 20 km event in Rio also, instead of me. With Alexander, it's like working under pressure," said Sandeep.

He said he would concentrate on 50km event and not on 20km as "it's easier to win a medal in 50 km event in Asian Games than in 20km".

"Under Surender sir, I can train with a motorcycle in front of me for 30-40 km which actually happens in competitions. If you are following a motorcycle or like that and if you can walk faster for one second in 1 km, that will reduce your time by 50 seconds when you complete the race."

Alexander, on the other hand, said Sandeep lacked work ethics to be able to improve his timing to world standards.

"Sandeep has the talent but a timing of 3:55:00 or 3:56:00 will be of no use at world level. That is good for national level and at best Asian level. If you want to be in contention for a medal in World Championships or Olympics, you have to at least do 3:40:00. I wanted him to push the limit," said Alexander.

"Whatever he might say, I am not into all these selections. That is not my job. He is a top national-level athlete and it had gone into his head."

Ganapathi - Rio Olympian in 20km - and Gurmeet Singh made their first foray into the 50 km event but they were disqualified during the race by the judges.

Alexander said both Ganapathi and Gurmeet will now shift to 50 km race and will no longer compete in 20 km.