NEW DELHI, March 17: National record holder KT Irfan on Sunday became the first Indian from athletics to qualify for the next year�s Olympics while finishing fourth in the 20 km event of the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan.
The 29-year-old Irfan clocked 1 hour 20 minutes and 57 seconds to better the Tokyo Olympics qualification standard of 1 hour 21 minutes.
The Olympics qualification period for race walk events and marathon race has begun from January 1 this year and will run till May 31, 2020. The Olympics qualification period for all other athletics events will start from May 1 this year and will run till June 29, 2020.
No other Indian from athletics has so far qualified for Tokyo Olympics.
Irfan, who has a personal best as well as national record of 1:20:21 which he did during his 10th place finish in 2012 Olympics, also qualified for this year�s World Championships (September 27-October 6) in Doha, Qatar as he bettered the qualifying mark of 1:22:30.
The Kerala race walker had won the 20 km event in the National Open Race Walk Championships in Chennai last month with a time of 1:26:18.
He was one of the two Indian athletes who were expelled from the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for not adhering to the �no needle policy� of the Games. He was disqualified in the 20 km race walk event of the 2018 Asian Games after receiving his third warning for �loss of contact�.
Japan�s Toshikazu Yamanishi won the 20 km race walk event with an impressive time of 1:17:15 while Kazakhstan�s Georgiy Sheiko and Korea�s Byeongkwang Choe were second and third in 1:20:21 and 1:20:40 respectively. � PTI