‘Focus is to get fit for 2022 season now’ – Olympian Thonakai Gopi rues injury and pandemic for missing Tokyo Olympics deadline

Thonakai Gopi was in superb touch in the 2019 season and was all set to bag his second Olympic qualification before a recurring knee injury ended his hopes.

Thonakai Gopi
Thonakai Gopi

Former Asian champion, marathoner Thonakai Gopi‘s Tokyo Olympics hopes are over as he missed the deadline to qualify for the quadrennial event. The deadline to achieving the Olympic qualification mark of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds ended on May 31. With it, the hopes of the Olympian of making sealing a second Olympic berth has been squashed.

Gopi feels that an ill-timed injury and the pandemic which has been ravaging all around the globe for over a year now costed him a second Olympics appearance. “I had a knee injury in later part of 2019 while 2020 was disrupted by the pandemic. Since the deadline to achieve qualification is over, focus is to get fit for 2022 season now,” Gopi told IANS.

Thonakai Gopi finished 25th at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as he clocked a personal best of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds. The 33-year-old distance runner had a brilliant run in the 2017 season as he clinched a gold medal in the Asian Championship. “Winning the Asian marathon title was a big boost to my confidence, though the 2018 season didn’t go on expected lines as I couldn’t qualify for the Jakarta Asian Games,” he said.

“Never had the experience of running in minus temperature,” Thonakai Gopi

Thonakai Gopi
Thonakai Gopi

The Seoul marathon pushed Thonakai Gopi to his limits as he braved the chilling cold to clock a personal best of 2 hours 13 minutes and 39 seconds. With a gritty show in South Korea, he had a promising start to the 2019 season before the knee injury struck. “I never had the experience of running in minus temperature. The first 10 km of the race were very tough, but I managed,” he recalled.

Also Read: “All shooters are favourites to win a medal” says Sanjeev Rajput on medal hopes at Tokyo Olympics

His performance in Seoul helped him to qualify for 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships held in Doha later in the year. At the Championships, he came in touching distance of bagging a second Olympic qualification but fell short by four minutes. “The hot and humid conditions in Doha weren’t ideal for distance running. My time of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 58 seconds was nearly four minutes slower than the Olympic qualification standard of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds,” added Gopi.

The World Championships was Gopi’s last competition as he was later sidelined for four months with a recurring knee injury. Gopi shares that his complete focus now is on getting back to full fitness for the upcoming season. “Coming back from an injury was a challenging task. I’m doing rehabilitation. Since there isn’t any major competition now, the main focus is to regain lost fitness and get ready for 2022 season,” said Gopi.

Also Read: “Shouldn’t take expectations as pressure” – Neeraj Chopra remains ‘focused’ on upcoming Tokyo Olympics