A strong eight-member Indian team made up of all Olympic Games qualifiers will take part in the Asian 20km Race Walking Championships to be held in Nomi, Japan, on March 20.
Rajasthan girl Sapana is the lone woman in the Indian team while Khushbir Kaur, who has also qualified for Rio Olympics, has pulled out of the prestigious continental event due to injury.
National record holder and Asian Games silver medallist Khushbir had limped out of the finishing line after winning the gold in the National Race Walk Championships in Jaipur last month and she is currently undergoing a recovery programme.
Among the seven men are Gurmeet Singh who had won a silver in 2012, a bronze each in 2014 and 2015 in this competition and national record holder K T Irfan who had finished 10th in the 2012 London Olympics.
Irfan also bettered the Rio Olympics qualification mark in Jaipur last month in his first race after sustaining an injury in the 2014 Asian Games in China.
The other five men racer walkers are Manish Rawat, K Ganapathi, Devender Singh, Sandeep Kumar and Neeraj Singh.
Race walk head coach Alexander Artsybashev said that the Indian athletes would aim to clock their personal best and further improve their ranking for the final selection for the World Championships in May and the Olympics in August.
“Some of the race walkers in the team Gurmeet Singh, Sandeep Kumar and Manish Rawat made the Olympics grade a year back. For Nomi, the walkers will be aiming to clock their personal bests and we also hope to win more medals than last time,” said Alexander.
The team leaves for Japan from here tonight.