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Ram Baboo overcomes 'harsh weather' to qualify for 2024 Paris Olympics

Ram Baboo became the seventh Indian racewalker to book a 2024 Paris Olympics quota place after winning a bronze medal in Slovakia.

Ram Baboo overcomes harsh weather to qualify for 2024 Paris Olympics

Racewalker Ram Baboo in action during an event. (Photo credit: NationalGames/Twitter)


Pritish Raj

Updated: 19 March 2024 4:52 AM GMT

Ram Baboo, on Saturday, overcame tough weather conditions in Slovakia to qualify for the Paris Olympics men's 20km racewalk event.

The 24-year-old racewalker clocked a personal best timing of 1:20:00 to win a bronze medal at the Dudinska 50 Meet, a gold-level Race Walking Tour event. The Olympic qualifying mark for a 20km race walking is 1:20:10.

"The weather conditions were a little harsh here today as it was raining and the temperature dropped to nine degrees Celsius which is very cold for me," Ram Baboo told The Bridge over the phone from Slovakia.

Talking about his performance, Ram Baboo said, "I clocked 42:21 in the first 10km and then a thought passed through my mind what if I mess up in the last few km?"

"But I kept running suppressing my thoughts and went all out in the last 10 km," he added.

Ram Baboo is the seventh Indian racewalker to earn his qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Earlier, Akshdeep Singh, Suraj Panwar, Servin Sebastian, Arshpreet Singh, Pramjeet Bisht, and Vikas Singh qualified for the Olympics.

"I tried my best at the National Championships too but failed at that time. I clocked 1:21:04 there and finished sixth. I entered the tournament as I was confident that I could break the Olympic qualification mark," said Ram Baboo.

A regular in 35km racewalk, Ram Baboo didn't have many options when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) marked his pet event as a mixed team event with qualifications depending on both male and female racers.

"When 35km race walking was there in the Olympics, I never thought about the 20km event. But when the notification came about the mixed relay in the Olympics, I had to rethink my priorities," he explained the reason for shifting to 20km.

"I had only two options today - Olympic qualification or excuses such as rain and cold weather. But I am glad that I breached the mark and qualified for Paris," said Ram, who recently won a medal at the Asian Games 2022 in 35km racewalking.

Though seven Indian athletes qualified for racewalking, India can send three to the quadrennial extravaganza.

The decision lies with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) regarding who will make their cut for the Paris Games out of the seven race walkers. Chief athletics coach Radhakrishnan Nair said the final selection could be made in June.

Talking about the availability of many options in the same event, Ram said, "I think it is up to AFI to decide who they want to send but as it stands I have clocked the third best time among the seven athletes. So, I am hopeful of getting a ticket to Paris."

Whether Ram Baboo gets the nod to compete in the Olympics or not, his journey from a construction worker in MGNREGA to qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics will certainly be one of the most inspiring stories in Indian sports.

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