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Asian Games medallist Ram Baboo to shift to 20km race walk event ahead of Paris Olympics

Published at :October 19, 2023 at 8:24 AM
Modified at :February 18, 2024 at 8:50 AM
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(Courtesy : Ram Baboo)

M Sudharshan

He holds the national record in men’s 35km race walk.

Racewalker Ram Baboo alongside Manju Rani clinched bronze medal in 35km mixed relay race walk at the recently concluded Asian Games 2023. The former had to go through several hardships a few years back to get to this position and in the past year has shown good improvements – creating national record. From MNREGA worker to an Asian Games medallist, Ram Baboo has seen it all and has become a source of inspiration for many.

He spoke to Khel Now in an exclusive interaction following his bronze medal win in the 35km mixed relay race walk event at Hangzhou. In the chat, Ram Baboo reminisced his journey and how his story has served as an inspiration to many.

“For many I have now become an inspiration,” started Ram Baboo. “During the tough phase in my life, I always wanted to achieve something big.” He joined hands with national record holder Manju Rani in the newly introduced relay format for the 35km racewalkers.

On the bronze medal triumph Ram Baboo iterated, “Amazed to win a medal at the Asian Games. This was the first time I took part in the team event and there was added responsibility, as I’m not competing alone. For instance, if any one of us gets disqualified then the team also gets disqualified. Also, we need to look at each other’s timings and if required need to cover it up as well.”

There are few decisions which did not go well with the Indian athletes throughout the Continental Games. One such instance occurred at the mixed relay event. “In between the race at the 10-12km mark, I received a second warning which I felt was incorrect. Prior to this, I had already received one but this one wasn’t acceptable. Then to my surprise after progressing for the next 2km, my warning was removed and now I had only one warning.

“We did not lodge any protest but the officials themselves removed my warning. Meanwhile, there was a Japanese walker who had good technique, but he too was given a warning which ultimately resulted in penalty time. Overall, I feel the officiating wasn’t good. If you have given me a warning, then keep it as it is. Why do you have to remove it after sometime was my question in the end.”

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Race format and possible shift to 20km race walk

While the relay event is part of the Olympics, the Asian Games drafted the format for the first time. But the format was different to the one set to be followed in Paris Olympics. “The Asian Games 2023 followed a different format. Here we both – the male and female racewalkers have to cover 35km each and the combined time of each will be added to adjudge the winner, while in Paris both athletes combined will cover 35km.

He further added, “In the Olympics, first a male racewalker will start the race and after covering certain distance female walker will take over. This will continue till the 35km mark is covered. However, in the upcoming season, I will look to shift to the 20km race walk category rather than 35km. Personally, I like individual event more than relay and with 35km race walk not providing a standalone race I have thought of shifting to the lower division.

Role of coach Tatiana Sibileva

Ram Baboo with coach Sibileva

Russia’s Tatiana Sibileva was drafted into the Indian racewalking setup last year for the Asian Games. With the Games getting postponed, the Russian had ample time to train the athletes. “Sibileva has played a major role in shaping up my career. In the past there has been a communication gap between the coach and athlete but it hasn’t been in our case.

“She is more of a second mother for me and fights for our well-being – best training facilities, good diet and cares for us every time. Apart from just training, she enquires about my facility and always tries to keep me positive.”

The Indian racewalking contingent had high performance training in Kazakhstan. “Prior to the Asian Games, we went to Kazakhstan for training in higher altitudes (1800 to 2200m above sea level). The facilities were excellent and the training there was beneficial.

“Looking back at my performance, this season has been good but there is still room for improvement. With Paris Olympics in the fray, I’m totally focused on getting onto the podium. To be honest the chance of winning gold is very minimal but will try hard to at least win a medal.”