In a remarkable display of athleticism, Akshdeep Singh clinched victory at the National Open Race Walking competition in Chandigarh on Tuesday, breaking the national record in the men's 20km racewalking category. Akshdeep, already assured the 2024 Paris Olympic quota, blazed through the course, clocking an impressive 1 hour, 19 minutes, and 38 seconds, surpassing his previous national record of 1:19:55 set in the 2023 edition of the tournament.
The event, serving as a selection trial for the National teams, took on added significance as the chosen athletes will participate in the inaugural Marathon Race Walking Mixed Relay scheduled in Turkey this April. The top 22 teams from this relay will automatically get the Paris Olympic quota.
Meanwhile, Suraj Panwar of Uttarakhand secured the second position, not only finishing strongly but also breaking the Paris Games qualifying mark of 1:20:10 by recording a time of 1:19:43. With this achievement, Panwar becomes the fourth Indian athlete in the men's 20km race walking event to earn a coveted Paris Olympic quota place. Joining him are Pramjeet Bisht and Vikas Singh, who qualified during the Asian Race Walk Championships in Japan last year.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) now faces the task of selecting the three athletes who will represent the nation in the 2024 Paris Olympics, adhering to the rule allowing only three participants per country in individual track and field events.
However, ace racewalker Priyanka Goswami opted to skip the event in Chandigarh to focus on her Olympic preparations in Australia. In other categories, the men's 35km event attracted 26 participants, while the women's 35km race saw eight entries. The competition also included U-20 boys and girls sections, featuring a 10km distance.
Adding an international flavor to the competition, two athletes from Sri Lanka, including one female participant, will join the fray in the 20km event, enhancing the event's competitive spirit.