Looking back at the previous season, racewalker K T Irfan cuts a dejected figure, having finished fifth in the Asian Games in Incheon before injury forcing him out of a few other domestic and foreign meets.
Not that, he did too badly in the year - he still won a gold medal in the Federation Cup National Athletics Championship.
But being a national record holder, the expectation on him was a little high that anything below that level can be deemed bad. “I couldn’t give my best,” Irfan says about his past season.
“There was some hope on me in the Asian Games last year. I just couldn’t live up to the expectation. If had I dipped under one hour and 20 minutes, I might have won a medal for the country,” explains the Olympian, adding that injury has also played spoilsport that he had to rule out of many events.
Amid such worrying statistics, Irfan takes heart from the fact he was still picked up by the Kerala Athletics Association for the President’s Award 2015 instituted for the best athletes. “It is the second time I am chosen for the honour. I never thought I would come this far.”
For the affable racewalker, who is fondly referred to as “Malappuram Express”, a medal in 2016 Rio Olympics will be more than a dream come true, but the man rues a rarity of opportunities on international stage that could have gone a long way in attaining the all-important foreign exposure.“Racewalkers don’t necessarily get enough international championships.That is an issue for anyone competing with the highly professional stars on world meets. They are way better than us because the standard of training abroad is far better than India,” says Irfan who finished at a creditable fifth in London Olympics.
Irfan has a personal best and national record of 1.20.21s (clocked in 2012 London Olympics) and last season’s best of 1.21.9 which he did in the IAAF Race Walking World Cup in China in May last year, but thinks he must do more than his best to have any chance of winning a medal in Olympics.
“My ultimate aim is to clinch a medal in Rio. It is not easy. You have a world class field to fight with. As I said, foreign exposure is the key. If I get some international competition ahead of Rio I will be more prepared for the event,” says the 22-year-old who is currently training at the SAI centre in Bangalore.