NEW DELHI: Eyes firmly set on 2024 Olympics, race walker Amit Khatri's coach Chandan Singh has requested the government to include his ward in the Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS) after the youngster won a silver medal in the World U-20 Athletics Championships in Nairobi on Saturday.
Khatri, who clocked 42 minutes 17.94 seconds, was leading till the final two laps of men's 10000m race walk in Nairobi but the host country's Heristone Wanyoni pulled ahead of the 17-year-old Indian to win the gold with a personal best time of 42:10.84s.
Chandan said Khatri, from Rohtak district in Haryana, has the potential to become a top-class race walker in the next few years and the aim is to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
"His walking technique is very good and he is a fast learner. He can become a top race walker in the country in the next few years but he will need funds going ahead. So, I request SAI to include him in the TOPS Scheme," Chandan told PTI from Army Sports Institute in Pune where is he is working.
"The aim is to prepare him for the 2024 Olympics. But he has no sponsor, nobody to back him financially. His father works in the BSF (non officer rank) and his mother is a housewife. So, it is difficult for Amit financially."
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) TOPS initiative began in 2014, where the government funds top athletes (core group) for their training and competitions.
It was expanded last year to include junior athletes (developmental group) who will get Rs 25,000 out of pocket allowance per month.
"Amit's family is doing whatever they can but I know it is difficult for them. Whenever he trains in Uttarakhand, I take care of his accommodation and food," said Chandan, who belongs to Uttarakhand.
"But sometimes we have to go to Ooty (for high altitude training) and then sometimes at SAI Bengaluru, so he needs financial support. His diet is also important," said Chandan, himself a former race walker who represented the country in 2013 and 2015 world championships.
"When I first met him at NIS Patiala, he was very lean and thin but I found out that he can be groomed to become a top walker. Now he is in a better shape physically and fitness-wise."
He said Khatri would be put through light training for 20km race walk in the coming months and prepare him for next year's Senior National Race Race Walk Championships which is normally held in February.
"I have to prepare him for 20km slowly and gradually. 10km event is not there in the Olympics. We will start 20km training in the next couple of months. I have to do it slowly.
"He can take part in the National Senior Race Walk event next year so that he can qualify for the 2024 Olympics."