Patiala: India’s K T Irfan has rued the lack of international competitions for race walkers but still feels he can have a shot at a medal in the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Irfan, who comfortably won the men’s 20km race walk competition in the Federation Cup Senior National Athletics Championships at the NIS here, said he is geared up to take on the Chinese and Japanese competitors in the September 19 to October 4 Games.
“It is going to be a tough field with the Chinese and the Japanese among the best in the world. It is going to be a world class field and I have to give my best,” Irfan, who won the event here in 1:24:27s, told PTI in an interview. Seven Japanese, six Chinese and one South Korean have clocked better timings than Irfan in the season so far but a country can send only two athletes (three for home country) in a track and field event in the Asian Games and that should put Irfan in the reckoning for a medal.
Yusuke Suzuki of Japan is the world leader of the season with a timing of 1:18:17s while another Japanese Eiki Takahashi and Chinese Zelin Cai are among the top five season leaders in the IAAF list. Irfan has a personal best and national record of 1:20:21s (clocked in 2012 London Olympics) and season’s best of 1:21:09 which he did in the IAAF Race Walking World Cup in China in May.
“I have to take down my time below 1:20.00s to get a medal in Incheon and I think I can do it. The good thing is that all the season leaders from Asia except one are Chinese and Japanese and each country can send only two competitors. So, I am in for a chance,” the ace Indian race walker said.
Asked about his preparations for the Asian Games, Irfan said, “It’s going on very well. We were training in Bangalore SAI Centre but have now shifted to SAI training centre at Dharamshala which is at a higher altitude and in temperature almost similar to Incheon. Training at a higher altitude is always good for long distance events as you acclimatise with the conditions with less oxygen and endurance level increases.
“Race walkers don’t get too many international competitions though the federation tries a lot. I hope we can get some international events next year and before the 2016 Rio Olympics. My ultimate aim is to win a medal in Rio Olympics,” said the 22-year-old Kerala athlete. Irfan said that he is desperate for a medal in the Asian Games as he has not won one in a multi-sporting event for the country.
“Race Walk is not there in the Commonwealth Games. I finished 10th in the London Olympics and Asian Games is a big event. I badly want to win a medal in the Asian Games and I think can do it,” he said. Irfan said he did not push himself too hard in the Federation Cup here and that was why he clocked 1:24:27s to win the event. Irfan is certain to be picked for the Asian Games though the qualifying standard set by the AFI for the event is 1:24.00s.
“I have already qualified for the Asian Games on the strength of my IAAF Race Walking World Cup in China in May. I did 1:21:09s there whereas the AFI qualifying standard is 1:24.00s. I just wanted to prove my fitness and so I said before the race that I would not push hard and I would just think of winning the event. Pushing hard might have led to an injury also as it was very humid. I came first without much effort and I led from the start,” he said.