Race Walker, Irfan Kolothum Thodi hailing from Kerela became the first Indian Sportsperson from Athletics to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after finishing fourth in the 20 km event of the Asian Race. He was part of the Indian Contingent that went to the London Olympics and finished 10th in the quadrennial event with a timing of 1 hour 20 minutes and 21 seconds (a national record). 

KT Irfan is employed as a Sepoy in the Indian Army and known as the Malappuram Express in the Indian sporting fraternity.

We feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to have a chat with the Olympian to understand a little more about his journey to the Tokyo Olympics. 

How did Athletics start for you as a sport? 

I started athletics to get admission into a good college. Initially, I wasn't serious about the sport but I had two friends who were state winners in  20 km race walking. I would always accompany them to help them train and gradually I started walking with them. All of this happened during my plus two life. 

Did you always dream of qualifying for the Olympics? 

Once I started to take the sport seriously, I wished to participate in the Olympics. And finally, my wish came true when I qualified for the London Olympics.

That was my second International competition and a huge turning point in my life. 

What did you do differently in terms of training and practicing for the Olympics? 

Race Walking is a technical event. The chances of disqualifications are very high so I try to spend most of my time concentrating on improving my technique and pace. 

What have been your biggest achievements so far? 

  • 10th in London Olympics
  • Bronze in World Team Walking Championship in 2012
  • Bronze in Asian Walking Championship
  • 4th in World Military Games Wuhan 2019
  • 5th in Asian Games

What have been your biggest challenges so far? 

I got a severe stress injury in my feet in 2015, I took almost one and a half years for recovery. I've always faced some inconsistencies in my performance because of muscle strain but I'm still trying hard to tackle my difficulties. 

Share your journey / routine building up to the Tokyo Olympics

I qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2019 after finishing fourth in the 20 km Asian Race Walking Championship at Nomi. Unfortunately, Tokyo Olympics got postponed to 2021. With repeated lockdowns, the coronavirus, etc made the situation very difficult for us. However, the government gave us sufficient support to help us prepare for Tokyo. My life was simply restricted at the SAI Bangalore Campus, with no outings, no family meetings, only practice, rest, and some fun moments with other qualifiers. That's all but we got enough time to concentrate on our training for the event. 

Who is Irfan Thodi outside of Athletics? 

I am a full family man, actually, I miss my family a lot. I keep wishing for some quality time with them. I have two little kids named Hamed Sair and Hamed Ilan. I feel relaxed when they are with me. I also like to cook, play video games, etc.

How are you feeling about Tokyo and what are your biggest aspirations? 

It's a dream to perform for our nation in Tokyo. I am eagerly waiting for it. This Olympics will give greater hope to the world to adapt to the new normal situation. I want to perform really well there, I hope I will with all your prayers. 

Any words of advice for younger athletes who want to take up the sport? 

There will be ups and downs in the sport. Whatever the result, keep the passion and commitment towards your event and keep on trying. One day, the result will come. 

Nothing is impossible but it's not so simple so never give up

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