WHEN Baljinder Singh steps onto the track at Japan’s Nomi city on Sunday morning, for the 20km Asian Race Walking Championships, it will be an emotional return to a venue that has been a happy hunting ground for the 20-km walker from Dera Bassi.
Baljinder will be returning to the same setting where exactly three years ago he earned a berth for the 2012 London Olympics after finishing fifth in the same championship with a timing of 1:22:12.
The ‘A’ qualification standard for the London Olympics had then been 1:22:30. His timing, that earned him the Olympic ticket at Nomi, is also his personal best. “I have fond memories of Nomi and it feels nice to be going to the same city again. Hopefully, I will return with happy memories this time as well,” said Baljinder, who finished 43rd at the London Olympics.
A month ago, Baljinder made the most of the absence of the country’s top race-walker, K T Irfan of Kerala, to win gold in the National Games at Kerala by clocking 1:26:24 seconds. For the record, Irfan was at a national camp to prepare for the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing. For Baljinder though it was an opportunity to steal the limelight from Irfan, who had taken centrestage with some noteworthy performances pushing fellow walkers like Baljinder and Gurmeet Singh to the background.
Baljinder has worked hard under Ramakrishnan Gandhi, a SAI coach based in Bengaluru. The 20 Race Walking Championship will, however, be the litmus test for the Dera Bassi athlete as he gears up to qualify for the world championships and then the 2016 Rio Olympics. The 28-year-old, however, wants to take things one at a time beginning with the Asian championship. “I will be looking for a timing under one hour 24 minutes at the Asian championship and qualify for the world championships,” he added.
Baljinder will have to, however, look to clock close to 1:22:00 to qualify for the Rio Olympics. The 28-year-old first came into the limelight when he was a student of DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh, between 2005 and 2008. He represented Chandigarh in the 21st National Junior Athletics Championships held a decade ago at Chennai and continued to represent UT till the 51st inter-state National Athletics Championships held at Bengaluru four years ago. He soon made it to the national camp at Patiala but later moved to Bengaluru to train under Gandhi.