Seemingly tough, yet Gopi Thonakal is optimistic about Paris Qualification

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Gopi Thonakal

Former Asian Champion Gopi Thonakal thinks that it would be a tough task for the Indians to make it to the 2024 Paris Olympics as the qualifying time is beyond their reach, which requires them to better their personal best, and also break the 46-year-old national record to be within the limit for the Paris Games qualification time of 2:08:10

Gopi Thonakal speaks ahead of the New Delhi Marathon

The 35-year-old Gopi, who became the first Asian champion marathon runner in 2017, told PTI that the Paris Games qualifying time will be very tough for the Indians to achieve.

“This qualifying timing (of the Paris Olympics) is very tough for Indian marathon runners. We are hoping to get through (the Olympics) via rankings where an average is calculated from five competitions over around two years,” he said ahead of Sunday’s New Delhi Marathon, an Olympic qualifying event.

“I am hoping to run my personal best here in Delhi. I am perfectly fit now though I had less time for training after the Mumbai Marathon (in January),” said Gopi who has a personal best of 2:13:39.

Gopi made it to the 2016 Rio Olympics when the qualifying time was 2:19:00. The qualifying time was 2:11:30 for the Tokyo Olympics before the World Athletics made it 2:08:10 this time.

The Paris Olympics marathon qualifying window is from November 6, 2022, to May 5, 2024, and 80 athletes will compete in the 42.195km event. But there is no Indian listed so far in the World Athletics’ Road to Paris chart, which gives a rough idea about who is likely to make it to the Olympics.

Asked if he could break the national record of 2:12.00, which has been in the name of Shivnath Singh since 1978, Gopi said, “Yes, why not? I can try for the national record. I have been trying for that but I had faced problems in the last 10km (of the 42.195km race) or so in two or three events earlier.

“Otherwise, the national record would have been broken earlier.” He said the national record will ultimately fall in the next few years.

Shivnath Singh
Shivnath Singh, who still holds the national record for India since 1978.

“When I started in 2016, the Indian standard was 2:18 or 2:19. Our group took it to 2:15, 2:16. It is reducing slowly and it cannot happen overnight. We are now running 2:14 and gradually the national record will fall.” On Sunday Gopi Thonakal will be running his fifth race in around two years after making a comeback in 2023.

“After taking part in the World Championships in 2019, I had a knee surgery the next year. It took time to recover, and then the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, and thus two years went by. I returned in 2023,” he said.

“I ran in the Mumbai Marathon, Seoul Marathon, and Amsterdam Marathon last year and then also Mumbai Marathon (early this year). This will be my fifth race (since 2023) and I am planning to run another one, most probably outside the country,” said Gopi Thonakal who currently trains in Bengaluru.

Gopi’s may face tough competition on Sunday from 2021 edition winner Srinu Bugatha (PB: 2:14:59) and Anish Thapa (PB: 2:16:41). Last edition’s top-two finishers, Man Singh and Belliappa AB, both Hangzhou Asian Games participants, are missing this time.

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