Olympic-bound race walker Akshdeep Singh breaks national record on men's 20km race walk

Akshdeep Singh rewrote his own record to win the India Open race walking event.

Akshdeep Singh in a file photo (Image Credit- Sportstar - The Hindu)
By Pushkar Pandey | Jan 31, 2024 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Having secured a spot for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Punjab’s Akshdeep Singh broke his Indian record while successfully defending his title in the men’s 20km race walk at the National Open Race-Walking Championship on Tuesday. Akshdeep Singh made waves last year at the 2023 edition of the event in Ranchi, qualifying for the upcoming Olympics.

This time, he set a new personal and national best with a time of 1:19:38, edging past his previous record of 1:19:55. Runners-up Suraj Panwar from Uttarakhand, Servin Sebastian of Tamil Nadu, and Punjab’s own Arshpreet Singh also finished under the Olympic qualifying time of 1:20:10. Six Indian athletes have earned qualifications for the men’s 20km race walk event in Paris.

Among those who qualified in Japan last year are Pramjeet Bisht and Vikas Singh. A country is allowed a maximum of three competitors per individual track and field event at the Olympics.  This means the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) will have to decide who among the six will compete in Paris.

The final decision is expected to be made in June, as stated by the chief athletics coach, Radhakrishnan Nair. On the first day of the two-day meet at the scenic Sukhna Lake, there was some initial confusion about the timings, but it was later confirmed four athletes qualified for the Olympics.

Akshdeep Singh and Suraj Panwar’s background

24-year-old Akshdeep, who grew up in Kahneke village, Barnala district, has laid claim to being one of the first Indian track and field athletes to book tickets to Paris, along with experienced race walker Priyanka Goswami. Son of a farmer, Akshdeep set his earlier national record in Ranchi last year.

Raised on a diet of farm-fresh milk, the path of sports was paved by his father, aiming for his son to secure a job in the Indian Army. Post-event, Akshdeep mentioned his focus on avoiding injuries and maintaining his current level of performance. At the 2018 Youth Olympics, 22-year-old Suraj Panwar won a silver medal in the 5,000m race walk.

Last year in Ranchi, he also finished in second place, and this year he has qualified again. Panwar grew up in a village near Dehradun, brought up by his mother, who worked for the forest department, after losing his father as an infant. His journey to the Youth Olympics was challenging, marked by the use of second-hand shoes from Olympian Manish Singh Rawat.

Panwar, who narrowly missed the Olympic cut in Ranchi last year and struggled with injuries for nearly a year, was thrilled to get back in the race for the Olympics after completing the 20km race walk in under 80 minutes today in Chandigarh.

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