National record holder, Irfan KT on Sunday became the first Indian athlete from athletics to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics while finishing fourth in the 20 km event of the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan. This will be Irfan’s second Olympics after he represented the country for the London 2012 Olympics in the 20 km walk event.
According to reports in PTI, Irfan clocked timing of 1 hour 20 minutes and 57 seconds to better the Tokyo Olympics qualification standard of 1 hour 21 minutes. Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi won the 20 km race walk event with an impressive time of 1:17:15 while Kazakhstan’s Georgiy Sheiko and Korea’s Byeongkwang Choe were second and third in 1:20:21 and 1:20:40 respectively.
The 29-year-old race walker from Kerala had won the 20 km event in the National Open Race Walk Championships in Chennai last month with a time of 1:26:18.
Last year he was one of the two Indian athletes that were expelled from the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for not following the ‘no needle policy’ of the Games. He was also disqualified in the 20 km race walk event of the 2018 Asian Games after receiving his third warning for “loss of contact”.
Apart from Irfan, no other Indian from athletics has so far qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. The Olympics qualification period for race walk events and marathon race has begun from January 1 this year and will run till May 31, 2020. Irfan, qualified for this year’s World Championships (September 27-October 6) in Doha, Qatar as he bettered the qualifying mark of 1:22:30.