A few years ago, Sandeep Kumar never thought that he would be good in any sport. Coming from a farming family from Mahendergarh in Haryana, he never got close to any event too.
But his life changed suddenly when he joined the Jat Regiment Centre in 2006. Two years later, he began to race walk. The Armyman is now the country’s top star in one of the most gruelling events in athletics.
Defending champion Sandeep won the men’s 50km event with a dominating performance in the Muthootu Mini second National Open race walking championship at the Willingdon Island here on Sunday.
“I came to race walking when I was around 20, that was my first introduction to sport,” said the 27-year-old who was in action at the World championships in Moscow last year. “Now, I just walk and walk, I don’t have much time for anything else.”Third fastest
Sandeep’s time, 4:08.54, is the third fastest in the world this year but of course, this is still early season in athletics.
The Armyman, who clocked a personal best 4:02:19 in race walking’s first National Open in Patiala last year, took the lead after about four km on the two-km loop course on Bristow Road this morning and stayed steady for a comfortable victory. Two walkers tried to keep pace with Sandeep around the halfway mark but they could only stay with him for a brief while.
None of the seniors was close to the meet marks but both the junior (under-20) boys and girls 10km events threw up records with the boys’ winner, Punjab’s Mahendra Pratap Singh bettering the mark by more than a minute with his 45:00.1s and Kerala’s K.T. Neena, just 16, taking the girls’ title with a new record in her first attempt at the event.
There was some confusion and a bit of drama after the boys’ event. Haryana’s Vijay, who was competing under the AFI banner, came in first in a fast 44:55.7s but his joy turned to disappointment later when it was informed that he had been disqualified for committing fouls.
The results (top five):
Men’s 50km: 1. Sandeep Kumar (AFI) 4:08.54s, 2. Manish Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand) 4:09.38, 3. Surinder Singh (Pun) 4:14.14, 4. Maniram Patel (AFI) 4:14.57, 5. Jitendra Singh (Cht) 4:16.58.
Junior men, 10km: 1. Mahendra Pratap Singh (Pun) 45:00.1s MR, OR 46:06, 2. Shailesh Kumar (AFI, 46:33.9), 3. Manjit Singh (Pun) 47:45.5, 4. Sunil (AFi) 47:56.3, 5. Naveen Dalal (AFI) 48:25.3.
Junior women, 10km: 1. K.T. Neena (Kerala) 51:26.3s MR, OR 51.32, 2. Priyanka (Punjab) 52:02.1, 3 A.M. Binsy (Kerala) 54:44.6, 4. K. Mary Margaret (Kerala) 59:10.5, 5. Nimi Varghese (Kerala) 59:48.1s.