Commonwealth Games 2018: KT Irfan hopes to go beyond national records, win medal on debut appearance

Name: KT Irfan

Age: 28

Discipline (sport): Racewalking

Category: 20km

Past CWG performance: Debut

Past record (best performances): Gold medal in the walk event at Open National Athletic Championship in 2011; Fifth in IAAF World Race Walking Challenge

Irfan first shot to prominence during the 2012 London Olympics, in which he set a national record in the 20km racewalk event.

Six years later, and on the other side of the globe, Irfan will be looking to go beyond national records, and beat athletes from other countries to the gold medal in his maiden appearance in the Commonwealth Games.

Art work by Rajan Gaikwad

Art work by Rajan Gaikwad

Irfan, nicknamed the 'Mallapuram Express' after the district in Kerala from where he hails, comes from a humble background, with his father having supported his family on daily wages, according to a report on India Today.

Irfan, who first started getting aspirations of becoming an athlete during his school days, joined the army, where he was enlisted in the Madras Regiment. It was there that he was taken under the wings of Subedar Ramkumar, whose training helped him in his journey towards international racewalking events. He started training under Gurdev Singh in 2011, and qualified for the London Olympics that took place a year later.

At the 20km race walk event in London, he was initially running fifth, before a couple of fouls resulted in him settling for the 10th spot, although he ended up breaking the Indian record in the event with a timestamp of 1:20:21.

However, the important point to note in Irfan's 10th-place finish in the London event was that he performed beyond expectations despite the financial hardships that he went through — including the lack of funds to buy proper running shoes. Leading actor from Malayalam film industry Mohan Lal had stepped in to support him financially, with the Kerala government promising to take care of him after being impressed with his Olympic run.

That the sport of race walking isn't really cared for in a country that worships its cricketers is perfectly summed up in Irfan's statement: "The standard of training abroad is far better than India. In terms of the infrastructure, support staff etc, they are way ahead."

Irfan couldn't quite improve his Olympics record in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janiero, which he did not compete in despite qualifying for the event. However, he has his sights set on the 2020 edition of the biggest sporting edition on this planet, while also looking to breach the hour and 19-minute mark.

"I could not participate in the Rio Olympics, but I definitely want to compete in Tokyo. In order to get there, I am targeting the World Chammpionships, as well as hitting the hour and 19-minute mark," Irfan was quoted as saying according to livehindustan.com.

The armyman's preparation for the Gold Coast event might have been boosted by his first-place finish at the National Racewalking Championships held in New Delhi, in which he beat his roommate Manish Singh Rawat — who had finished 13th at Rio.

"I can look forward to doing well in the upcoming Commonwealth Games," said Irfan in a report on Scroll. One certainly hopes he sets another precedent in the upcoming Games, one that will not only establish him as the leading exponent on the sport in the country, but will also help in expanding the popularity of the sport in the country.

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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 21:01:14 IST

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