Mumbai, Jan 17 (IANS) Nitendra Singh Rawat on Sunday set a new Mumbai Marathon course record of 2:15:48 hours by an Indian while his compatriots Gopi T. and Kheta Ram came second and third, respectively, to automatically qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The Indians, competing against world-class runners, raced along the Mumbai roads from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Bandra via the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link in the country’s premier 42.195 km Marathon. 

Rawat, who had earlier qualified for Rio, broke the previous course record of 2:16.59 hours set by Ram Singh Yadav in 2012. Gopi finished the Marathon in 2:16:15 hours to come second while Ram ended in 2:17:23 hours to emerge third. The cut-off mark to qualify for Marathon in Olympics is two hours 19 minutes for men which the trio completed at ease. Rawat, who made his mark at the recently held World Military Games and qualified for the Rio Olympics, has been in peak form and on Sunday the Uttarakhand-born displayed his best by coming out tenth in overall men’s Marathon overcoming other world class athletes. He also won the 2015 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM). 

Gopi, who ran his first marathon came up with a sterling performance to end 11th overall and grab a place in the Olympics while Ram finished 15th overall. Kerala-born Gopi, earlier finished second in the 2015 Delhi Half Marathon. Rajasthan-born Ram earlier won at the Vasai-Virar Mayor’s Marathon last year. On the other hand, Sudha Singh, who came third in 2015 Mumbai Marathon with a timing of 2:42:11, came up with a dominating show, this time, to be the top Indian woman in the race and clock a better timing of 2:39:28. Sudha was the seventh to finish overall. Sudha, a consistent performer in steeplechase events, was an Asian Games gold medallist in 2010. 

She was also the winner in Mumbai in 2014 in the half marathon category and was the runner-up at the Delhi Half Marathon in the same year. Long distance runner Lalita Babar, who held the second spot in the last year’s Mumbai Marathon, came second this year with a timing of 2:41:55. 

She finished overall tenth. In the third position was O.P. Jaisa from Kerala, who is the current marathon national record holder (2:37:29) — a feat she achieved here last year returned third in 2016 with a timing of 2:43:26. With the cut-off mark to qualify for Marathon in Olympics being two hours 45 minutes for women, meant all three Sudha, Lalita, Jaisa automatically qualified for the Rio games. 

In the half Marathon, Deepak Bapu Kumbhar (1:06:01) topped ahead of Belliappa AB (1:06:37 hour) and third Indrajeet Patel (1:06:59) in the overall category. While, Monika Raut (1:17:20) stood first ahead of Manisha Salunkhe (1:19:17) and third position held by Monika Athare (1:20:08) in the women’s category of half Marathon.

Meanwhile, On a high after setting the new Mumbai Marathon course record of 2:15:48 for an Indian, long distance runner Nitendra Singh Rawat on Sunday thanked his coach for putting him through intense training in the national camp at Ooty which eventually helped him set the mark. 

Rawat, who qualified for the Rio Olympics at the World Military Games last year, broke the previous Indian course record of 2:16.59 hours set by fellow armyman Ram Singh Yadav in 2012. 

“I was personally confident after the training we had been put through in the national camp at Ooty by our coach (Surinder Singh) Bhandari. I have to thank him. It feels good (to set a new course record),” Rawat said at a press conference here. Gopi T. finished in 2:16:15 to come second among the Indians while Kheta Ram finishing in 2:17:23 came out third. The cut-off mark to qualify for the Olympics is two hours 19 minutes for men which the three armymen completed at ease. 

“I was told to set the pace for others till the 30km mark but I felt good and decided to continue. It feels pretty good to finish the race. This is my first marathon and I have come out second here. Nothing can get better than this,” the Kerala-born Gopi said. “The hard work done over the last few months in Ooty has helped. I wanted to better the old course record, but it did not happen,” the Rajasthan-born Kheta said. Both Kheta Ram and Gopi stressed that they were basically track runners and would try to qualify for the 5,000m and 10,000m for the Rio Games. At the Olympics, only three athletes per country are allowed to take part in a single event.

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