New Delhi: Sandeep Kumar of Haryana smashed his own national record en route to winning the gold medal in the gruelling men's 50km event of the National Race Walking Championships here on Saturday.
Sandeep clocked three hours 55 minutes and 59.05 seconds in a brilliant performance to win the race and qualify for the London World Championships in August. The earlier national record which stood in his name was 3:56:22 which he clocked in the IAAF World Race Walking Cup at Taicang, China in May 2014.
Services athletes Jitender Singh (4:02:11.58) and Chandan Singh (4:04:18.41) won the silver and bronze respectively in the energy-sapping race. Both Jitender and Chandan also booked their berths for the August 4-13 World Championships.
The entry standard for the men's 50km race walk event for the World Championships is 4:06:00.
"I'm very happy to have won the race by smashing my own national record and to have qualified for World Championships in London. It gives me confidence that I can keep on improving and better my timing in future also," Sandeep, who led the race from start to finish, told PTI after the race.
"I will prepare for World Championships in London and I hope to do well there. My target is to win a medal in the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year and then to do even better in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," said the 30-year-old army man who currently trains at the SAI Center in Bangalore.
Sandeep, who had finished fourth in 2014 Asian Games, was richer by Rs 50,000, while Jitender and Chandan got Rs 30,000 and Rs 20,000 respectively as prize money. A total of Rs 4 lakh was kept as prize money by the sponsors Max Bupa.
The Championships, however, lost some of the sheen as top women's 20km race walker Khushbeer Kaur and her men's counterpart Manish Singh Rawat pulled out at the last minute without informing the Athletics Federation of India.
AFI had instructed all the athletes to take part in the championships as it's the qualifying event of the Asian Race Walking Championships to be held in Nomi, Japan on March 20.
In the men's 20km race walk event, all the three podium finishers crossed the London World Championship entry standard of 1:24:00.
National record holder K T Irfan, representing Services, won the race in one hour 22 minutes and 43.48 seconds. His national mark stands at 1:20:21 which he clocked while finishing a creditable 10th in the 2012 London Olympics.
Services swept all the three medals with Devender (1:22:43.59) and K Ganapati (1:22:57.86) bagging the silver and bronze respectively.(PTI)