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For Tokyo cut, road runner Gopi eyes 2021 races – other sports

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Marathons will resume in September but India’s best hope Thonakal Gopi is looking to next year instead. He is plotting a route to the Olympics through the Seoul road race in March. To qualify for Tokyo, Gopi will need to clock 2:11:30, which is seven minutes less than the qualifying mark for the 2016 Olympics. “It’s within my reach but I need a good platform, which isn’t there on the Indian domestic circuit,” said Gopi, 32.

“The weather conditions have to be ideal to run under 2:12. The route has to be smooth. Above all, fitness has to be excellent,” said Gopi whose best of 2:13:39 fetched him the 11th spot in Seoul in March 2019. This year’s marathon in Seoul was cancelled because of Covid-19.

The national record of 2:12 was set by Shivnath Singh in 1978. The next six months are crucial, said the Olympian and Army runner now training at Sports Authority of India’s centre in Bengaluru after recovering from a right knee injury.

Gopi explained why he is giving the races beginning in September — as announced by World Athletics on Tuesday — a miss. It wouldn’t be possible for him to rejig his training schedule to be ready by then, he said.

“Secondly, there are travel restrictions. Also, there could entry issues,” said Gopi, winner of the 2017 Asian marathon in China with a time of 2:15:48.

In 2016, Gopi was among the three Indian runners who qualified for the Rio Olympics. He finished 25th in 2:15:25. Gopi was the only Indian in 2017 World Athletics Championships’ marathon and he was 28th with a time of 2:13:13.

Gopi’s show in Seoul last year helped him qualify for the world championships in Doha where he ended 21st in 2:15:57. “It was tough to complete the race,’’ he said, referring to the heat and humidity.

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