Bhawana earns Tokyo ticket
An unheralded Bhawana Jat qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 20km race walk event after pulling off a shock win with a national record time at the National Championships here on Saturday.
The 23-year-old athlete, who hails from a poor farmer’s family at Kabra village in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district, clocked one hour 29 minutes and 54 seconds, which is well inside the Olympic qualification time of 1:31:00, to win gold.
She thus became only the second Indian woman to qualify for Olympics in 20km race walk event after Khushbir Kaur competed in the 2016 Rio Games.
Bhawana’s effort was a massive improvement of more than eight minutes from her personal best of 1:38.30s set in October last year during the National Open Championships.
She had, however, clocked 1:36:17s in 20,000m race walk event during the All India Inter-Railway Athletics Championships in August last year in Pune, which was competed on track.
Bhawana, who currently trains on her own in Jaipur with her coach Gurmukh Sihag, has not taken part in any international event at the junior or senior level. She also has never been in a national camp under the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).
She began her senior career in 2016 during the National Inter-State Championships in Hyderabad where she finished fifth with a time of 1:52:38s. Saturday’s win was just her second such achievement in a national meet after the National Open last year.
“It’s a dream come true. I was doing in the range of 1:27:00s during training, so I knew that if the conditions are all right, I would be able to breach this Olympic qualifying mark of 1:31:00s,” Bhawana, currently a train ticket examiner for Indian Railways, posted in Calcutta, said.
“It was pure hard work in the last few months with my coach and because of that, I am being able to come up with this kind of a performance,” said Bhawana.
Her coach Gurmukh said that Bhawana has given her dope sample, which means that her national record will be valid.
An AFI official also said that dope sample collectors from the Nada have taken samples from the athletes.