Race walking is gradually gaining ground in India and Manish Rawat, one of the nine walkers to have already crossed the Olympics qualification standard, has his eyes trained on a medal at the Rio Games.
The 24-year-old athlete, from Chamoli district in Uttarakhand, is currently training under the tutelage of Russian coach Alexander Artsybashev in Thiruvananthapuram.
For the record, K T Irfan finished 10th with a national record in 20km race walk at the 2012 London Olympics, and Rawat would love to better that mark in Rio.
"Once you are able to finish inside top 10, you are in medal contention and there are chances of finishing on the podium. So, I am looking for getting into the 10-top first," Rawat, who has seen hardships staring at his face when his father passed away in 2002, said on the sidelines of an event here today.
He managed to make the Olympic cut in the 20km event after finishing with a time of one hour 20 minutes and 50 seconds at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in April last year. His three hour 57 minutes and 11 seconds effort at the World Championships in Beijing earned him a Rio berth for the 50km event.
The Rio Olympic Games qualification time was set at 1:24.00.
"I am trying to to improve my timing now. I finished in the top 10 at the World Championships in Beijing but for Olympics I know I will have to raise my standards as this is a different ball game altogether."
Rawat, who has loved the sport since childhood, has qualified for the World Walking Championships and will be travelling to Italy and Poland for competitions and training purposes.
Before that, he will also be participating in the Asian Walking Championship scheduled to be held in Japan on March 20.
Employed by Uttarakhand police and supported by GoSports Foundations, Rawat says the government has been active in providing assistance.
GoSports Foundation is an independent and donor-funded organisation focused on strengthening the future of Indian sport by providing young as well as high-performing athletes necessary support to realise their dreams.
Rawat says the chief coach has been instrumental in his progress since the time he began walking.
Artsybashev, who has been working with the Indian walkers since 2011, has his task cut out for Rio Olympics.