Name: Irfan Kolothum Thodi
Discipline: 20km walk event
Qualification: Qualified for Rio at the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan.
Strengths: Is known to push hard and has always done well at the 20km walk event.
Past record (recent best performances): Gold medal in the walk event at Open National Athletic Championship in 2011
- Silver medal in the Inter State Senior National Athletic Championship in 2011
- Gold medal in Federation Cup Senior Athletic Championship in 2012
Past Olympics performance: Came 10th in the 20km walk event at the 2012 London Olympics
Rio Prospects: Thodi actually has a good chance of returning from Brazil with an Olympic medal. He has the experience of participating in the Olympics, and he has the necessary skills to do well. He needs to ensure he doesn't make too many fouls, and continues with the same drive he showed at London in 2012.
Thodi is also known as the 'Malappuram Express', as he hails from the Northern Kerala town. His claim to fame was the 2012 London Olympics, where he finished a creditable 10th position and set the national record by clocking 1:20:21.
An army man, Thodi's Olympic journey started under the tutelage of Subedar Ramkumar in the Madras regiment. In 2011, he started to train under Gurdev Singh and qualified for the London Games.
When asked about the expenses he has to incur to keep up with the sport, Thodi had told Sportskeeda in 2014, "It's difficult to estimate but I require minimum two pairs of special walking shoes every month. Each shoe costs about Rs 10,000-15,000. Additionally, I need nutritional and medical supplements every month coupled with with physiotherapists and a masseur's fee."
Race walking isn't a priority in Indian sports and Thodi talks about the training in his interview. "The standard of training abroad is far better than India. In terms of the infrastructure, support staff etc, they are way ahead," he told the magazine.
While this is a common complaint, he was signed by the Olympic Gold Quest after the London 2012 Olympics. The OGC, an Indian organisation that promotes the best talents across the country with an aim to boost the paltry sum of medals that India have accumulated over the years in the Olympics.
Speaking to India Today, Thodi recalled how he was fifth at 15km, but had already conceded two fouls — race walkers are not allowed to leave their foot from the ground and have to keep their knees straight all throughout the race. They can make three violations but will be disqualified thereafter — he had to concede defeat. But the Armyman feels now that he has done well in a low profile sport, he will get more exposure. "I am aware with more participation in international meets, I can get better," he said in the interview.
Therefore, the chances of a medal in race walking may seem like a legitimate possibility. If Thodi can showcase the same heart and desire that he put into his performance in London, there is no reason why he shouldn't rise to the top at Rio.