Indian race walker KT Irfan was both excited and relieved to learn that those athletes who had qualified for the Olympics before its postponement will keep their spots for the Tokyo Games.
KT Irfan, who was the first track and field athlete from India to qualify for the Olympics, will keep his spot for Tokyo along with the rest of the athletes who have already qualified, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach confirmed on Thursday.
"I was worried whether the qualification will stand for the now deferred Games which will now be held sometime in 2021,” KT Irfan was quoted saying in the Times of India.
“I feared that World Athletics (the governing body of the games) might tweak the qualification rules again. But I'm relieved now after hearing the IOC president's words," he added.
The race walker from Kerala qualified for the Tokyo Games in the men’s 20km race walking by finishing fourth in the Asian meet.
His qualification time of 1 hour 20 minutes and 57 seconds is inside the qualification cut of 1 hour 21 minutes for Tokyo.
The Tokyo Games will be KT Irfan’s second Olympic appearance following his 10th place finish with a time of 1 hour 20 minutes and 21 seconds – still his personal best and national record – at the 2012 London Games.
Postponement results in plenty of time for preparation
With the Tokyo Games postponed, athletes like KT Irfan now have plenty of time to prepare and ensure that they are in peak condition when the Olympics get underway.
“Normally, the off-season lasts one or two months. Now, we can extend it to three or four. For walkers, it is an opportunity to do more long walks (40-50km),” KT Irfan told the Indian Express while elaborating how a longer off-season and extra time to concentrate on techniques are big advantages.
“If we keep doing that, 20km will become easier. We can also spend time on building core strength. For example, the iron man workout is very important to build muscle strength. If we can spend more time on that, it will help in the long run,” he added.
Like KT Irfan, another Indian race walker Bhawna Jat will be at ease about her Tokyo prospects having qualified for sports’ showpiece event last month.
She set a new national record at the 7th National Open Race Walking Championships with a time of 1 hour, 29 minutes and 54 seconds in the 20km race walk.