Currently, Nitendra Singh Rawat is the fastest man from India – as far as the marathon event is concerned. This is his first Olympics ever. He is part of India’s biggest ever marathon contingent till date, along with Gopi T, Kheta Ram, O.P. Jaisha and Kavita Raut.
India’s marathoners reached Rio on 7 August, a week before the women’s race and two weeks before the men’s races, scheduled for the final day of the Olympics. In London 2012, there was just one marathon runner – Ram Singh Yadav – in the fray.
An army man, Nitendra, has come a long way from manning a border post in Kashmir to representing India at the Olympics. He has achieved all this with little support; in a sport that is usually supported by Indian corporates, in a big way. While he gets his gear from Adidas (Asics had also made him an offer), he gets little support in terms of nutrition, travel and logistics.
Highly motivated and extremely focused, Rawat has resisted the temptation to hit the Copacabana beach or let himself loose at a Samba session. Instead, he is maintaining his discipline, meditating every morning and training as per his coach’s schedule – that he has a photograph of on his cellphone.
Rawat has come here with the target of finishing the 42.195 km in 2:9:59, and in doing so he will improve the national record set by Shivnath Singh in 1978 by two minutes. He expects a great show from Kheta Ram and Gopi as well.
"At this point in time they are fitter than I am. I had an injury in between but I have been training consistently since February. However, before coming here, all three of us ran a half marathon and I was faster than the other two in that distance. So, let’s see," Rawat said.