Nomi City, Japan: Punjab athlete Baljinder Singh has earned a berth for the London Olympics after finishing fifth in the Asian 20km Race Walking Championships, with a timing of 1:22:12.
The 'A' qualification standard for the London Olympics was 1:22:30.
The 25-year-old Baljinder hails from Dera Bassi, about 20km from Chandigarh on the Delhi-Chandigarh national highway.
En route to Nomi, Baljinder won the Indian trials at Patiala on February 15 with a noteworthy 1:22:01.
A maximum of three athletes with 'A' qualification performance can represent a country in an event at the Olympic Games.
In the same event, Baljinder's compatriot and national record-holder Gurmeet Singh, who has already attained the Olympic qualification with a timing of 1:22:05 in Dublin last year, won a silver medal. He timed a commendable 1:21:31 for the silver medal.
Gurmeet had clocked an impressive 1:20:23 during the inter-railway championships at Bhubaneswar last month.
Gurmeet led race until the last kilometre and barely missed the gold by just 9 seconds, to China's Zhu Chundong (1:21:22). For Chundong, it was a personal best as he improved nearly 7 minutes from his previous record. Gurmeet had finished seventh here last year.
Korean walker Byun Young Jun finished third for the bronze medal in 1:21:42.
Besides the above two Indians, Surinder Singh also timed creditably in 1:23:53, well ahead of Abbal Singh Rana (1:27:50).
Although only one athlete from a country is allowed to compete in each category (men/women) at the Asian Race Walking Championships, India and Iran obtained special permission to field additional entries to attain Olympic qualification as the Nomi event was one of the pre-designated races to achieve the London grade.
In the women's race, Deepmala Devi finished outside the podium with her fourth-place finish in 1:42:01. China's Ding Huiquin took the top spot in 1:30:14. Rei Inoue of Japan (1:34:06) and Nguyen Thi Thanh of Vietnam (1:35:13) had won the silver and bronze medals respectively.
Among the other women walkers from India, national champion Khusbir Kaur finished 5th overall in 1:44:30 while Gaurav Kumari did not finish the race.