GURMEET SINGH, 27

20 KM RACE WALK­ING Ut­tarak­hand

India Today - - SPORTS -

HIS STORY He was a re­jected stu­dent. His coach was a re­tired ath­lete coach­ing school­boys. To­gether, they cre­ated In­dia’s strong­est medal hope in race­walk­ing. Af­ter be­ing shunned by coaches as a non- per­former and fail­ing to qual­ify for the Com­mon­wealth Games in 2010, Gurmeet Singh ap­proached Ra­makr­ish­nan Gandhi, a walker “I was over­whelmed by the sup­port I got at the Asian Race Walk­ing Cham­pi­onship in Ja­pan. When the crowd cheered me on, it gave me the drive and con­fi­dence to win and pushed me to clock a 1: 21: 31 and bring back a sil­ver medal. I am now all charged to win the gold.” who com­peted un­suc­cess­fully at the na­tional level in the 1980s. Gandhi took him un­der his wing and egged him on to beat his 2010 best of 1: 27: 00 as well as the Olympic qual­i­fy­ing mark of 1: 22: 30 and de­liver a 1: 20: 35 at the In­dian Grand Prix I, 2011, all in five months.

VAN­TAGE POINT The first In­dian to qual­ify for the Games in this dis­ci­pline in the past 28 years, Singh did not have ac­cess to proper fa­cil­i­ties. This changed, with help from the Mit­tal Cham­pi­ons Trust .

CHAL­LENGE AHEAD He qual­i­fied for Lon­don at the Dublin In­ter­na­tional Grand Prix in 2011, clock­ing 1: 22: 07, but came sixth in the event. He also lost gold by just nine sec­onds at the 2012 Asian 20 km Race Walk­ing Cham­pi­onship in Ja­pan.

OLYMPIC RUN- UP Singh cov­ers 120- 150 km ev­ery week, walk­ing a min­i­mum of five- and- a- half hours daily, along­side marathon run­ners.

IN­DIAN EX­PRESS

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