Bhawana Jat secured an Olympic berth in 20km race walk after winning gold at the National Championships in Ranchi.


The 23-year-old, who hails from an impecunious family in Kabra, Rajasthan, clocked 1 hour 29 minutes and 54 seconds in the National Championships, which was well inside the Olympic qualification time of 1:31:00. In addition to booking a spot in the Olympics, she broke the two-year-old National record of 1:31:29s.




It was Jat’s personal best performance as she improved more than 8 minutes of her personal best 1:38.30s, set in October last year during the National Open Championships. Notably, she became the only second Indian woman to qualify for the Olympics in the 20km category after Khushbir Kaur, who competed in the 2016 Rio Games.



Bhawana has faced many difficulties in her early career. “My father is a small farmer and my mother a housewife. I have one older and one younger brother and it was very difficult to run the family from my father’s meagre income. I took up the Railways jobs only to help my father. It is very difficult for me to pursue athletics,”, she said. 



Adding to that, she said, “If I didn’t win this competition and qualify for the Olympics, I don’t know what I would have done.”




Jat is posted as a TTE (Train Ticket Examiner) in Kolkata and is currently facing many financial difficulties. She said, “Normally Railways athletes are allowed to take leave before a competition, but I wasn’t given leave, So I had to take leave without pay to train.”



However, after qualifying for the Olympics she hopes to be included in the Top Olympic Podium Scheme to train properly for the Tokyo Olympics.



Bhawana currently trains under her coach, Gurmukh Sihag in Jaipur and has never taken part in any International Competitions and also never been a part of training camps under AFI (Athletic Federation of India). She attributed her coach for her stunning performance.



Talking about her goal in the Tokyo Olympics, she said,” In 2016 Rio, the gold was won in 1:28:35s and bronze in 1:28:42s. So, if I make further improvement of a minute or so I can be in medal contention, you never know. I feel I can improve up to 1:27:00s in Tokyo. In any case, I will be happy if I finish in the top 10.” (as told to PTI, Ranchi)



Bhawana’s next competition will be the Asian Race-Walking Championships in Japan from 15 March.

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