In a spectacular display of athletic prowess, Ram Baboo and Manju Rani broke records at the National Open Race Walking Competition 2023 to secure their spots in the upcoming Asian Games 2023 set by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). The competition, held in Ranchi, Jharkhand, on Wednesday, drew top race walkers from all over the country.
Ram Baboo, a seasoned athlete with several accolades to his name, made a stunning comeback after a two-year hiatus due to an injury. He finished the men's 35km race walk in a record time of two hours, 31 minutes and 36 seconds. He broke the previous record of 2:36:34. With this performance, Ram Baboo secured his place in the Indian team for the Asian Games 2023. The entry standard for the tournament in men's 35km is 2:35:00. The tournament will start in Hangzhou, China later this year.
In the women's 35km race walk, it was Manju Rani who stole the show. She finished the race in a record time of 2:57:54. The previous national record in women's 35km race was 3:00:04 set by Ramandeep Kaur at the National Race Walking Championship last year. Like Ram Baboo, Manju Rani also secured her spot in the Indian team for the Asian Games 2023. The entry standard for the women's 35km is set at 2:58:30. Although, Ram Baboo and Manju Rani didn't make a cut for the Budapest 2023 world championships, which are 2:29:40 for men's 35km and 2:51:30 for women's 35km races.
However, Juned Khan, the last edition's winner, raced ahead of the previous national record in 2:36:04. But he finished second at the National Open Race Walking Championships 2023. Chandan Singh came third in 2:36:55. While Payal (3:05:43) and Vandana Patel (3:11:35) came second and third, respectively.
Meanwhile, in all, 13 athletes, eight men, and five women breached the qualifying standards for the Asian Games 2023 at the National Open Race Walking Competition.