AT A GLANCE / FEBRUARY 2020

Bhawana Jat (center). Photo: AFI Media / this photo was downloaded from the AFI website.

Bhawana Jat sets new national record in women’s 20 km race walk, qualifies for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Bhawana Jat of Indian Railways won the 20 km race walk for women at the 7th National Race Walking Championships held on Saturday (February 15, 2020).

With timing of 1:29:54 she has set a new national record and also achieved the qualification standard for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) said in a statement. Uttar Pradesh’s Priyanka Goswami, who placed second, missed the Olympic qualification by 36 seconds. She finished the race in 1:31:36. Karamjit Kaur of Punjab finished third in 1:33:41. Bhawana improved upon the previous national record of 1:31:29 held by Baby Sowmya. It was set in Delhi two years ago. The Olympic qualifying mark for women in the 20km-race, as decided by World Athletics, required timing of below 1:30.

Bhawana, 23, was the first Indian women athlete to meet the qualifying standards for Tokyo Olympics. K.T. Irfan (men’s 20km walk), Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase) and Neeraj Chopra (javelin throw) were the first three Indians to attain qualifying standards for Tokyo 2020, AFI said. According to a report from news agency PTI, Bhawana hails from a farmer’s family in Kabra village, Rajsamand district, Rajasthan. She is the second Indian woman to qualify for the Olympics in the 20 km-race walk after Khushbir Kaur who participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Bhawana is currently posted as a Train Ticket Examiner in Kolkata. She has spoken of financial challenges and expressed the desire to be included in the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). “ I put in a lot of hard work in training over the last three months and wanted to come home in 1:28-1:29,’’ she was quoted as saying in the AFI statement.

Sandeep Kumar won the men’s race in 1:21:34, just 34 seconds outside the Olympic qualification timing. Rahul of Haryana finished second in 1:21:59 and Vikash Singh of Delhi was third in 1:22:27. “ If I am selected for Asian Championships in Japan next month, I will try to improve the time and try to qualify for Tokyo2020,” Sandeep Kumar was quoted as saying.

Cheptegei sets new world record in 5k

Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda has set a new world record in the 5km.

On February 16, 2020, he clocked 12 minutes 51 seconds over the distance, at the Monaco Run 5km. According to a report available on the website of World Athletics, he shaved 27 seconds from the previous record of 13:18 set by Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto en route to his 10km world record in Valencia on January 12.

The new record is subject to official ratification.

Jimmy Gressier of France was second in 13:18; he broke the European record of 13:29 set by Julien Wanders at the same race last year. Nick Goolab of Great Britain was third in 13:27.

Liv Westphal won the women’s race in 15:31, a French national record, the report said.

Ababel Yeshaneh sets new world record in women’s half marathon

Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh topped the women’s section of the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon with a new world record.  She clocked 1:04:31, a report dated February 21, 2020, available on the website of World Athletics (formerly IAAF) said.

Brigid Kosgei, who holds the world record for women in the full marathon, placed second in 1:04:49. Her time was also inside the previous world record of 1:04:51, set by Joyciline Jepkosgei in Valencia in 2017, the statement said. Rosemary Wanjiru took third place in 1:05:34.

Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie won the men’s race in 58:58. Fellow Kenyan runner Alexander Mutiso Munyao finished second in 59:16.

Galen Rupp, Aliphine Tuliamuk top US Olympic Marathon Trials

The US marathon team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was decided at the Olympic Marathon Trials held in Atlanta on February 29, 2020.

The men’s team will be composed of Galen Rupp, Jacob Riley and Abdi Abdirahman. The women’s team features Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego. According to Runner’s World, the course was hilly entailing 1389 feet of uphill and 1382 feet of downhill.

Tuliamuk topped among women with timing of 2:27:23; Rupp topped among men with 2:09:20.

Desiree Linden finished fourth among women with timing of 2:29:03. Jim Walmsley, well known ultrarunner, who was running his first full marathon at the trials finished in 2:15:05 to place 22nd.

Four runners from India to participate in 2020 Badwater 135

Four ultrarunners from India – Ashish Kasodekar, Mandeep Doon, Munish Dev and Praveen Sharma – have been invited to participate in the annual Badwater 135, held in the U.S.

The race is scheduled for July 6-8, 2020.

Badwater 135 is a 217 km foot race that starts in California’s Death Valley and proceeds to Mount Whitney. The start line is at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, the lowest point in North America at 85 meters below sea level. The race finishes at Whitney Portal at an elevation of 2530 meters. Altogether the course covering three mountain ranges, entails 4450 meters of cumulative ascent and 1859 meters of cumulative descent.

During the 2019 edition of Badwater 135, Japan’s Yoshihiko Ishikawa had set a new course record of 21 hours, 33 minutes and one second. Pamela Chapman-Markle of the US had also set a new course record for her age group of 60-69 years, finishing in 34:30:53.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% (This photo was downloaded from the website of Nike and is being used here for representation purpose only.)

Nike’s Alphafly NEXT% set to hit the market

On January 31, 2020, World Athletics (formerly IAAF) had ruled on the controversy regarding running shoes to be used in competition.

The issue came to the fore following Nike’s introduction of its Vaporfly range which was claimed by the company to improve user’s performance and subsequently spoken of so by athletes who used it as well. Quite a few of the new records set in distance running in the recent past, featured the Vaporfly range. Later, a prototype version of the newer Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% was used by Kenyan great Eliud Kipchoge during the staged run in Vienna in October 2019, wherein he completed the marathon in just under-two hours.

Media reports about World Athletics’ ruling ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (the Games are scheduled to begin on July 24), had pointed out that the new norms spared the Vaporfly range but the Alphafly model used by Kipchoge may not make the cut as it was a prototype. Now a post dated February 5, 2020, available on the website of Nike indicates that the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% is among products slated for release in the summer of 2020. “ Nike’s newest race-day shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% features two new Nike Zoom Air pods, more ZoomX foam and a single carbon fiber plate (all updates from its predecessor, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%), and an ultra-breathable, lightweight Flyknit upper – all adding up to improved cushioning and running economy. The shoe is part of a suite of products releasing in summer 2020, including the Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% and Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% FlyEase, complementary training shoes that translate the principles of the Alphafly to rigorous daily use, and track spikes (the Nike Air Zoom Victory) that extend the NEXT% design ethos to new disciplines,’’ the statement said.

World Athletics in its January-end ruling said, “ from 30 April 2020, any shoe must have been available for purchase by any athlete on the open retail market (online or in store) for a period of four months before it can be used in competition. If a shoe is not openly available to all then it will be deemed a prototype and use of it in competition will not be permitted. Subject to compliance with the rules, any shoe that is available to all, but is customised for aesthetic reasons, or for medical reasons to suit the characteristics of a particular athlete’s foot, will be allowed. Where World Athletics has reason to believe that a type of shoe or specific technology may not be compliant with the rules or the spirit of the rules, it may submit the shoe or technology for study and may prohibit the use of the shoe or technology while it is under examination. Further, with immediate effect there will be an indefinite moratorium on any shoe (whether with or without spikes) that does not meet the following requirements:

  • The sole must be no thicker than 40mm.
  • The shoe must not contain more than one rigid embedded plate or blade (of any material) that runs either the full length or only part of the length of the shoe. The plate may be in more than one part but those parts must be located sequentially in one plane (not stacked or in parallel) and must not overlap.
  • For a shoe with spikes, an additional plate (to the plate mentioned above) or other mechanism is permitted, but only for the purpose of attaching the spikes to the sole, and the sole must be no thicker than 30mm.”

In its article (dated February 5, 2020) on the upcoming market introduction of the Alphafly NEXT%, Runners World pointed out that the magazine had learnt, “ the Alphafly has been measured by World Athletics—a men’s size 8.5 is 39.5 millimeters (mm) thick—so they would be competition legal based on the new guidelines that impose an immediate ban on any shoe with a sole thicker than 40 mm or shoes that contain more than one plate.’’ On February 5, 2020, The Wall Street journal also reported that Nike may offer the Alphafly NEXT% in limited quantities online by the end of the month, which will technically allow them to be eligible for the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics.

Anjali Saraogi (Photo: courtesy Anjali)

Awadh Narayan Yadav, Anjali Saraogi take top honors at IDBI Federal Kolkata Full Marathon

Awadh Narayan Yadav was the overall winner of the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Kolkata Full Marathon held on February 2, 2020. He finished the race in two hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds. Ultra-runner Tlanding Wahlang from Meghalaya finished second covering the distance in 2:30:51. Batsrang Sangma placed third with timing 2:31:43.

In the women’s segment, Anjali Saraogi was the winner with timing of 3:24:02. She was winning the race for the third year in a row. “ I chose to run this race as a strong training run. The route organization was excellent and the weather was favorable,” Anjali said. In the women’s race, Sunmbul Rahman came in second at 3:44:12. Snora Lynghkoi finished third with timing of 3:46:48.

In the half marathon segment, Hari Singh was the overall winner. He finished in 1:09:01. He was followed by L.R. Luther (1:09:11) and Kresstarjune Pathaw (1:09:56). Among women, the winner of the half marathon was Sabina Khatun. She finished the race in 1:31:35. In second position was Dateibankynmaw Marwein (1:33:25). Anita Das (1:36:04) placed third.

Deepak Bandbe (Photo: courtesy Deepak)

Deepak Bandbe in list of those automatically qualified for IAU’s Athlete of the Year 2019

Mumbai-based Deepak Bandbe, who earned a podium finish last November at the IAU 100km Asia & Oceania Championships, has been named in the list of those automatically qualified for IAU’s Athlete of the Year 2019. IAU stands for International Association of Ultrarunners.

A total of 36 athletes from around the world figure in the list based on podium finishes at various IAU competitions, the association said in a statement. Deepak had secured a bronze medal at the IAU 100km Asia & Oceania Championships held in Aqaba, Jordan, on November 23, 2019. He had finished the race in 8:04:16 hours, a national best in the category.

IAU has sought nominations for four more spots to take the list to a total of 40 athletes. The final list will be forwarded to the IAU Executive Council and IAU Member Federations, for voting. The name of the winner – IAU’s Athlete of the Year 2019 – will be announced on March 5, 2020, the statement said.

According to it, 2019 was a busy year for the sport as it was the first time in 35 years that IAU had six championships held in all the regions. They included: the IAU Trail World Championship, which took place on 8 June in Miranghado Corvo, Portugal; the second IAU 100km Americas Championships which took place in Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 27 (it was the first international ultra-distance championship hosted in South America), the IAU 50km World Championships held on September 1 in Braşov, Romania (the first time the event was held in Europe), the IAU 24H World Championships held on October 26 in Albi, France, On 23 November the IAU 100km Asia and Oceana Championship took place on November 23 in Aqaba, Jordan (IAU’s first continental championship in the region) and the IAU 50km Africa Championship held on December 7 in Sagamu, Nigeria (the event was the first such championship hosted by the African continent).

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

2020-2021 Union Budget: import duty on footwear goes up again

In 2018-2019, the Union Budget’s recommendation of increased import duty on footwear (from 10 per cent to 20 per cent) had affected the price of running shoes. Room for containment, as per news reports of that period, was to be found in free trade agreements existing between India and the overseas locations of shoe manufacturing. Now the 2020-2021 Union Budget has recommended increase in import duty on footwear from 25 per cent to 35 per cent. As before, there seems to be no distinction between shoes used for sports and footwear in general. Details are awaited. The scenario will be tougher in niche sports like rock climbing, where specialized shoes are integral to the sport and volumes sold are small. In fact last year itself the importer of a leading brand of climbing shoes had told this blog that he was tapering off the business because it is tough selling performance oriented shoes at prices reflecting prevailing customs duty. An additional element of interest this year is that duty for parts of footwear has also risen from 15 per cent to 20 per cent.

As per published reports, the government allocated Rs 2826.92 crore to its 2020-21 sports budget, a rise of Rs 50 crore from the previous financial year. The biggest beneficiary under the latest round of allocations is the Khelo India scheme for development of sport at grassroot and youth level; the scheme got Rs 291.42 crore more than in the previous year. However, funds for Sports Authority of India (SAI), National Sports Development Funds, incentives for sportspersons and allotments to National Sports Federations took a hit.

Abhinav Jha (Photo: courtesy Abhinav)

Sunil Sharma, Bindu Juneja win Tuffman 24-Hour Chandigarh Stadium Run

Abhinav Jha, Deepa Yadav take top honors in 100 km

Ultra-runner Sunil Sharma was overall winner in the men’s 24-hour ultra-running event at Tuffman Chandigarh Stadium Run held over February 1-2, 2020. He covered a distance of 227.86 kilometers. Amit Kumar finished second with mileage of 218.80 km. Geeno Antony secured third position logging 209.74 km.

“ The race went off well though my target was higher,” Geeno said. According to him, he cruised along for 17 hours but found it tough thereafter because of the weather.

In the women’s race, Bindu Juneja was the winner with distance of 176.67 km covered. Deepti Chaudhary (171.23 km) finished in second. Aparna Choudhary (167.77 km) placed third.

In the men’s 100 km solo race, Abhinav Jha took top honours covering the distance in eight hours, 16 minutes and 52 seconds. Suraj Chadha (8:35:13) finished second while Amar Shiv Dev (8:45:01) was third.

“ It was a good race. I had just about 45-50 days to train as I was nursing an injury. Keeping that in mind, I had set a conservative target of 8:20. I am happy that I was able to achieve it,” Abhinav, who is a Lieutenant Commander with the Indian Navy, said. Abhinav was part of the team that represented India at the IAU 100 km Asia & Oceania Championships held at Aqaba, Jordan in November 2019. Forced to sit out the championships owing to injury, he had instead crewed for the team members.

In the women’s 100 km race, Deepa Yadav was the winner. She finished in 11:44:46 hours. Aanchal Sehgal came in second at 12:31:36.

In the 12-hour race category, Ashwini G was the winner from among women; she covered a distance of 111.78 km. The first runner-up was Simran Kochhar (84.46 km) and the second runner-up, Irina Hazarika Barua (82.80 km). Ravi Singh was the winner from the men’s side with 108.05 km covered. Anwar Hussain (104.33 km) was the first runner-up and Varinder Singh (103.09 km) was the second runner-up.

Ashwini’s mileage at this event is a national best for women in the 12-hour run. Her first ultra-running event was Yercaud Ultra 50 km in February 2018. She was the winner of the 110 km segment of Malnad Ultra 2019. “ At the Tuffman event, my run went as per plan. It was a good day for me,” she said. Ashwini is likely to attempt the 50 km event at Tata Ultra later this month.

The Bergamont concept store in Mumbai (Photo: courtesy Scott Sports India)

Bergamont launches its first concept store in India

German bike brand Bergamont has launched its first concept store in India, at Wadala in Mumbai.

It is called ` Bergamont i-Ride.’

Bergamont is part of Scott Sports SA, the Swiss sports goods-company. The Swiss company acquired the German brand in 2015. According to a statement from Scott Sports India (issued February 17, 2020), Bergamont’s concept store in Mumbai is in partnership with The Cycle Worx and offers an experiential retail format designed to enhance the purchase experience. Bergamont has been growing 25 per cent year on year in the premium bicycle category in India, the statement said. The brand has targeted sales of 3200 units in 2020-2021.

The Bergamont i-Ride store will have a wide range of bikes from Bergamont to test. It also offers complete after-sales experience with fully trained staff and well-equipped service area. The store plans to host a number of engagement activities, including the Bergamont i-Ride Challenge, an endurance cycling challenge. Already present in more than 45 cities across the country, Bergamont plans to scale up the ` i-Ride’ store format to 15 stores over the next 3 years, the statement said.

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Japan’s Prime Minister, Olympics minister say Summer Olympics on track

Amid global concerns about the new coronavirus epidemic with epicenter in China, Japanese authorities have said that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go ahead as planned. On Monday, February 3, 2020, Reuters reported that Japan’s Olympics minister, Seiko Hashimoto has said that organizers of the event are not considering cancelling it. The Summer Olympics is scheduled to start on July 24.

The report also quoted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying that Japan will stay in close contact with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to take appropriate steps and ensure that the epidemic does not affect the Games.

Meanwhile, the annual Tokyo Marathon – it is one of the World Marathon Majors – is due to take place on March 1, 2020. Its website has a post on the coronavirus issue. “ The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Japan Association of Athletics Federations and other related governmental agencies are closely monitoring this coronavirus outbreak,’’ it said. According to it, as the organizer of the Tokyo Marathon 2020, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation is working closely with these organizations and has created a response team to collect the most up-to-date information and implement safety measures accordingly. “ Concurrently, we will continue to prepare for the event while monitoring the situation, and provide further information through our Tokyo Marathon official website and social channels. We encourage all runners, volunteers and other related parties to monitor their own health and stay vigilant by adopting stringent hygiene practices,’’ the post dated January 31, 2020, said.

2020 World Athletics U20 Championships to become first major track and field meet featuring air quality analysis

The World Athletics U20 Championships Nairobi 2020 will be the first global track and field championships where air quality will be measured and analyzed, a report dated February 14, 2020, available on the website of World Athletics (formerly IAAF) said.

According to it, as part of World Athletics’ continued pilot program to measure air quality at sporting venues around the world, a Kunak air quality monitor was recently installed at the Kenyan capital’s Kasarani Stadium, the venue for this year’s World U20 Championships. It is the second air quality monitor installed in Africa by World Athletics. Earlier, a monitor was installed in Addis Ababa at the end of 2018. An air quality monitor was also installed in Yokohama ahead of last year’s World Relays.

“ The data collected from there has recently led to a peer-reviewed scientific publication, ‘’ the report said about Yokohama, adding “ air quality will be monitored at all future World Athletics Series events, including this year’s World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia and the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Minsk. A device will also soon be installed in Oregon ahead of next year’s World Athletics Championships. The data collection and analysis will help event organizers to design safer timetables, while also providing insights to the ongoing research into the correlation between air quality and the performance of athletes.’’

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)