Priyanka, Akshdeep earn mixed race walk relay Paris qualification - Hindustan Times

Priyanka, Akshdeep earn mixed race walk relay Paris qualification

ByRutvick Mehta
Apr 22, 2024 12:17 AM IST

The national 20km race walk record holders will compete in the new event at the Olympics

Priyanka Goswami and Akshdeep Singh, national record holders in women’s and men’s 20km race walk respectively, combined to secure the Paris Olympics qualification for India in the newly introduced marathon race walk mixed relay with an 18th-place finish in the World Race Walking Team Championships in Antalya, Turkey on Sunday.

File image of Priyanka Goswami(X)
File image of Priyanka Goswami(X)

The duo clocked 3:05:03 in the mixed event which will make its Olympic debut this summer, to make the cut from the Worlds that offered 22 teams the Paris spot. Priyanka and Akshdeep

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have also made the cut in the individual 20km event for the Games among eight Indian walkers overall.

The 67 teams that lined up in Antalya — a country could field multiple teams — included several Olympic and world medallists, with walkers from Italy, Japan and Spain taking the podium. The second Indian team of Paramjeet Singh Bisht and Munita Prajapati ended 35th (3:09:58).

“It was a good performance considering we were doing this for the first time,” Priyanka said from Antalya. “I’m happy we got this qualification because we have a greater chance in this relay event at the Olympics to aim for a higher finish. We could see where we stood among 67 teams and in Paris, with fewer teams, we will aim for a better show, possibly even a medal.”

With the mixed event featuring for the first time in a major championship — the male and female walkers alternate in distances of 12.195km, 10km, 10km and 10km and it involves a wrist band exchange within a 20m takeover zone — most walkers were entering the unknown in Turkey.

Akshdeep, who bettered his own national record in January, and 2022 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Priyanka did well to hold their own in a world-class field. They were placed 20th around the halfway mark before jumping four places at the 25km split. They dropped to 21st while approaching the 35km mark but Priyanka picked up the pace within a couple of kilometres to move to 18th and remain there at the finish.

Both Indians found the stop-start format of the race challenging and alien to their usual 20km stretch. Akshdeep said while he was happy with his timing after the first leg, he found it difficult to get his body up and running again for the third leg.

“It’s a new event for us and we haven’t raced in such a format. After my first leg, I had a 45-minute break where my body had cooled down quite a bit. Now that we have experienced this, we can train accordingly and do even better at the Olympics. That will be the target,” he said.

With the mixed spot in focus at this World Championships, Priyanka and Akshdeep sat out of the individual 20km races. Servin Sebastian (1:21:39) produced the best finish by an Indian at 20th in an otherwise below-par outing by the country’s walkers in individual events.

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