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Mumbai marathon: Never imagined I would qualify for Rio 2016, says Gopi

It was a double whammy for Army Sports Institute (ASI) of Pune runner Gopi T at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon yesterday. The 27-year-old pace-setter for the Indian athletes, for whom this was his first full marathon, not only finished second in the Indian men's full marathon, but also qualified for the Rio Olympic Games. Yesterday he earned a prize money of R5,50,000 (R4,00,000 for coming second plus R1,50,000 bonus for breaking the course record).

Pace-setter T Gopi celebrates winning his second-place finish in the Mumbai Marathon yesterday. Pic/Satej Shinde
Pace-setter T Gopi celebrates winning his second-place finish in the Mumbai Marathon yesterday. Pic/Satej Shinde

Kerala's Gopi finished overall 11th with a timing of 2:16:15 behind ASI's Nitendra Singh Rawat, who came 10th, clocking 2:15:48 and Kheta Ram, also from ASI finishing 15th overall, taking third with 2:17:23. Nitendra and Gopi broke the four-year-old record by Ram Singh Yadav in 2012 of 2:16:59. Gopi said that this was the only opportunity he got and he grabbed it with both hands.

"I was a pace-setter and I was to run only till the 30-km mark. Once I set the pace, my body felt nice. So I continued running, and I am glad I finished second. The Olympic qualification was the icing on the cake," he said.

'Not a full marathoner'
Talking about the perks of prize money, he said, "I am a 5000m and 10,000m runner. I have run half-marathons before but never a full marathon. Today, my job was to set the pace for Nitendra. I have never got so much money before, so it feels nice. I didn't expect that I would achieve Olympic qualification at the first go."

When asked what he plans to do with the prize money, he added, "I am a hawaldar in the Army and the salary that I get I send home and keep some for myself. I will use this money for my Olympic preparation. I wasn't too fond of running marathons, but today's performance is a huge booster," said Gopi, son of a farmer in Kerala.

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