THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It was a proud moment for racewalking coach R Gandhi on Wednesday as three of his trainees — Baljinder Singh, Chandan Singh and Gurmeet Singh — representing Punjab, Services and Uttarakhand respectively featured on the victory stand for the men’s 20 km racewalk.
Baljinder and Chandan were engaged in a neck-and-neck battle until the former crossed the line in 1 hour 26 minutes and 24.20 seconds with the latter closely following suit. Gurmeet also wasn’t too far behind recording 1:27:44.40 hours.
“At this moment, we are not worrying about timing. Our only objective was to be among the medals. I could not have asked for any better than having three of my trainees on the podium,” said Gandhi, a Sports Authority of India coach based at Bengaluru.
The racewalking competition at the Games is missing top racewalkers including perennial favourite K T Irfan of Kerala who is attending the national camp, preparing for the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing to be held from August 22-30.
“Considering the hot and humid conditions and this being the start of the season, I am very pleased with the time I clocked,” said Baljinder after bagging the prestigious yellow metal.
“My aim is to clock a time under 1 hour 24 minutes at the Asian Championships slated to be held in Nomi, Japan on March 15 and qualify for the world championships,” Baljinder, who finished 43rd at the London Olympics, added.
Gandhi who has been training the trio at Bengaluru for the past four years expects great things from them. “I am confident our athletes will be able to clock times close to 1:22:00 to qualify for the Olympics,” the coach said.
“The times recorded by our walkers are close to international standards and racewalking is one event in which India can expect to win a medal at the 2016 or 2020 Olympics,” said an unflinching Gandhi.
For this, the coach feels that the government should lend more support to racewalking. “For example, the shoes used by our walkers only last for two or three months, but costs around `7,000 a pair. If the government can help the athletes, it can help them go a long way,” Gandhi signed off.