Gopi eyes national record

Gopi eyes national record

Athletes Jinson Johnson (left) and T Gopi during a media interaction in Bengaluru on Thursday. DH Photo/ Pushkar V

T Gopi is clear on what he plans to achieve at the World Athletics Championships in Doha next month.

The Wayanad-born marathoner has his eyes set on the national record and of course, an Olympic berth.

"The target is to improve on my personal best and with that also try and qualify for the Olympics," Gopi revealed on the sidelines of a promotional event for Asics.

The 31-year-old currently holds the second fastest time by an Indian marathon runner. His personal best of 2:13.39 set in Seoul in March remains behind only Shivnath Singh's time of 2:12.00 set way back in 1978. It is India's oldest standing athletics record.

But Gopi, who started running marathon in 2016 and showed slight improvements in the initial couple of years before making a nearly two-minute jump this year thanks to dedicated focus towards endurance and strength, is confident.

His national record came in conditions which he describes as 'minus'. His preparation was also far from ideal, having to take care of cooking and dietary needs on his own as he was cut from the national camp. He was also cramping in the final few kilometres. 

He is hoping the conditions in Doha will favour him. The fact that the marathon will be held at midnight, to avoid the high temperature, delights Gopi.

"Preparation is going well, I'm training in Bangalore with the national camp. I work out more in the evening session. I've never run in the night before but I think it will help because in the morning, we can't carb-load but with this, there could be some help in terms of diet. But everything depends on the temperature," he remarks.

With the Olympic qualification time well beyond even the national mark - 2:11.30 - it's a big ask. The field in Tokyo will be nearly half of that in Rio and qualification now is more complicated than before with consistency over the events also playing a key part if an athlete fails to meet the qualification time.

"Qualification time is very hard. But that will force us to improve performance," he says, looking at the silver lining.

Meanwhile, fellow Kerala middle distance runner Jinson Johnson has his eyes only on the Olympics.

The 800m and 1500m national record holder is all set to move to Colarado for high altitude training.

"September 1, I have an invitational competition in Germany. I'll leave (for the US) from there," he said. "Till now I've never trained outside the country so I don't have much idea of what to expect. I wanted to really improve. My performance is good at the Asian and India level but at the world level, I really have to improve."

Again, with the Olympic qualification time of 3:35.00 over two seconds off his personal and national best time of 3:37.62, its no easy task.

"The only way to qualify is to break the national record. Once a person gets to his best, then to cut every microsecond is very difficult. Every competition, the plan is to improve. This is why I prefer competitions abroad because in middle and long distance events, a lot depends on strategy. We need the pace, good competition and weather. So abroad, there will be better runners. Higher the competition the better time we can do," he stressed.