Achievements of racewalker Pramesh Prasad

Pramesh Prasad is one of our top masters walkers and a great ambassador for racewalking in Victoria. Now it’s time for the ultra distance walking community to learn a little about our newest Australain Centurion. 

Pramesh, who was born in Suva (Fiji) on 21st April 1974, had been a good runner in his younger years, competing over distances ranging from 800 m to 10 km. He was aged 13 when he won his first National Schools Championship over 800 m, and thought at that stage that his future lay in running. 

However, that all changed in 1990 when Fiji was to host the Oceania Athletic Championships. The Games were scheduled for July of that year and would include a 20 km racewalk. Although he would be only aged 16 at that time, his coach (who was also the National Athletics Coach for Fiji) asked him to try the walk. He had only a few months to work on his race walking technique and get ready. It was no easy task. As the only racewalker in Fiji, he was the subject of derision, with people calling him out as he was training at the track or on the road. But he persevered and duly represented Fiji in the Oceania Games 20 km walk at 16 years of age.

Opportunities started to flow as he improved in the sport. His next major achievement was a silver behind Brisbane based team mate Caleb Maybir (also one of our centurions) in the 1991 Pacific Games 20 km walk in New Guinea, his time a PB of 1:55:50. He was also working at that time to promote racewalking in Fiji, gradually building up a squad of racewalkers, including medical students Dip and Pradeep Chand. 

With the South Pacific Mini Games to be contested in Vanuatu in December 1993, the Fijian Athletics Federation funded a number of athletes to live and train in Melbourne during the 1992/1993 period. Pramesh was one of the recipients of this largess, basing himself in Melbourne and joining Collingwood Harriers. He was billeted with Judy Mason in Epping for few months before moving in with the other Fijian athletes in Thornbury. His time here proved just the tonic he needed and he quickly set new Fijian 10 km and 20 km records (his 20 km PB of 1:50:07 was done in the 1993 Victorian 20 km Championship). 

He was selected in the Fijian team for the 1993 South Pacific Mini Games, along with protegees Dip and Pradeep Chand, who had been runners before being talked by Pramesh into giving walking a try. For the record, Pramesh won gold in Vanuatu, while Dip took silver and Pradeep bronze.

The next question was: Could Fiji be talked into sending a walks team to the 1995 IAAF World Team Championships in Beijing ? At least three 20 km walkers would be needed and, by this stage, Pramesh had around 7 walkers in total in his squad. 

With a lot of hard work and lobbying over the next year and a bit, it came to fruition when Fiji selected Pramesh, Dip and Pradeep to represent the country in the 1995 IAAF Racewalking World Cup, to be held in Beijing on 29-30 April of that year. Pramesh was the youngster of the three, having just celebrated his 21st birthday a week before.

The 1995 World Cup was one of the largest on record, with 330 walkers in total (226 men/104 women) from 36 countries. And Fiji was there as one of those 36 ! There was a strong Oceania team, with 8 Australians, 3 Fijians and 4 New Zealanders in the mix, a grand total of 15 walkers. Here is how they fared: 

IAAF Racewalking World Cup, Beijing, China, 29 April 1995 

                 20 km Race walk Men 

rank     last name             nat.                    time

  15   Nicholas A'Hern   Australia             1:23:05 
  53   Dion Russell         Australia            1:28:25 
  71   Craig Barrett         New Zealand     1:31:52 
  81   Brent Vallance       Australia           1:34:44 
  95   Graeme Jones      New Zealand    1:39:08 
  99   Tony Sargisson      New Zealand   1:40:26 
106   Pradeep Chand     Fiji                    1:52:30
108   Pramesh Prasad   Fiji                    1:54:59 
109   Dip Chand             Fiji                    1:56:16 
  -     Scott Nelson          New Zealand      DNF 

            50 km Race walk Men 
  
 41   Michael Harvey      Australia   4:05:58 
 73   Duane Cousins      Australia   4:31:29 
 77   Dominic McGrath   Australia   4:36:29 
  -     Mark Donahoo       Australia      DNF

           10 km Race walk Women
 

  5   Kerry Saxby-Junna   Australia           42:58 
24   Anne Manning           Australia           45:26  
40   Teresa Letherby        Australia           46:23 
53   Wendy Muldoon        Australia           47:56 
54   Jane Barbour            Australia           47:58 
84   Rachel Gibbon          New Zealand   51:02 
96   Lynley Mathieson      New Zealand   57:13 
  -   Jenny Billington          New Zealand    DNF 

Fiji was keen to build on this initial success on the world stage and decided to further fund walking development. VRWC President and senior Australian coach Harry Summers was seconded as the inaugural Fijian National Walks Coach and travelled to Fiji to give a series of coaching seminars and guide the walkers to further improvement. 

Pramesh was now back living in Melbourne and had decided to retire and pursue his career. Dip and Pradeep were keen to kick on and moved to Melbourne to race, while they completed their medical training. They were regulars at our VRWC competition at Middle Park during the next few years and I had many friendly races against them. 

Fiji sent walkers to the next four IAAF Racewalking World Cups (1997, 1999, 2002, 2004) but the required improvement was not forthcoming and the funding dried up. Sadly, since 2004, there has been little racewalking action within Fijian athletics. Oceania Athletics was never able to build on the initial successes in 1995 and 1997 and it all spluttered out over the ensuing years. 

IAAF Racewalking World Cup, Podebrady, Czech Republic, 19 April 1997 

          20 km Race walk Men     

131   Dip Chand           Fiji   1:50:29
132   Pradeep Chand   Fiji   1:50:31
133   Caleb Maybir       Fiji   1:55:07 

IAAF Racewalking World Cup, Mézidon, France, 1 May 1999 

               20 km Race walk Men     

119   Pradeep Chand             Fiji   1:58:47
120   Selwyn Shaniel Singh   Fiji   2:08:50 

IAAF Racewalking World Cup, Turin, Italy, 12 October 2002 

           20 km Race walk Men      

 -   Pradeep Chand             Fiji   DQ
 -   Manohar Maharaj          Fiji   DNF
 -   Selwyn Shaniel Singh   Fiji   DNF 

 IAAF Racewalking World Cup, Naumburg, Germany, 1 May 2004

      20 km Race walk Men     

 -   Avinesh Kumar   Fiji   DNF

 That should be the end of the story, but luckily there is a very nice addendum. 

Pramesh had been living in Melbourne since 1995, had a good job, was married with a growing family and was probably long forgotten by those of us still racewalking. And no wonder - after a break of 20+ years, he weighed in at a massive 125 kg on his 41st birthday in April 2015. 
This was a turning point for him - he decided to get fit again, with his first run on that fateful birthday - well, if you could call it a run. He tells me it took several stops to reach his target of one kilometre. 11 months later, in March 2016, he returned to racing, winning the M40 division of the Victorian Masters 5000 m track walk in 30:21, and looking just like his old self.

He quickly improved, setting PB after PB in his first season back. That year saw him win 3 golds in the Australian Masters Championships in Adelaide. He followed with second place in the Victorian 15 km roadwalk championship in May, finished the 10 Miles walk at the LBG Carnival in Canberra in June, won his division in the VMA 20 km roadwalk later that same month, won silver in the Victorian 30 km roadwalk championship in August, won the M40 division in the AMA 20 km roadwalk championship in Adelaide a few weeks later, competed in the World Masters Championships in Perth in October (taking 4th, 5th and 10th placings in the walks) and then won 3 golds in the Pan Pacific Masters Games in Queensland. Not a bad first year back after 21 years away from the sport. 

Since then, he has been a regular on the Victorian and Australian scene, and is now walking faster than ever.

He holds 4 Fijian National Records, more than anyone else, and was able to wear the Fijian colours again when he represented that country in the 2017 Oceania Area Championships in Suva, Fiji, and in the 2019 Oceania Championships in Townsville, Queensland. 

That is a long way from the unfit plodder who couldn't run one kilometre in 2015 ! 

Pramesh was also keen on testing himself out over longer walking distances. In September 2018, he won the Victorian 50 km racewalking championship in a time of 4:56:55. The following year, in April 2019, he entered the 6 Hour Walk at our Coburg 24 Hour Carnival, winning with an impressive 56,512km. 
2020 came and went with no further races, given the covid-19 pandemic, but come this year, he was ready for the next step and entered the 24 Hour Walk at our 2021 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival. 

His walk in the 2021 Coburg Carnival 24 Hour walk was an impressive performance. He headed out fast, using the full racewalking technique, and powered through to 52,693 km in the first 6 hours. Then he switched to an efficient strolling action that continued to eat up the miles. He passed the 100 km mark in 11:49:11 and reached the 100 mile mark in 20:43:42. 
From then he strolled a few laps to a total distance of 162,559 km, his goal achieved. He had earned Centurion badge 81 for his efforts. 

His PBs as of 2021 read as follows:

 distance         time           average

     3 km            13' 41"   13,155 km/h
     5 km            23' 50"   12,587 km/h 
   10 km            49' 23"   12,150 km/h 
   20 km       1 h 44' 14"   11,513 km/h
   30 km       2 h 46' 51"   10,788 km/h
  50 km       4 h 56' 55"   10,104 km/h 
100 km      11 h 49' 11"     8,460 km/h ► his passage time on 100 miles
100 Miles   20 h 43' 42"    7,764 km/h ► 100 miles = 160,934 km

Pramesh is still working on ways of promoting racewalking in Melbourne and in Fiji and is part of a great training group which meets each Monday at the Casey Fields track.

Of course, this comeback was a big task for Pramesh, given he and his wife were already busy with their family of 4 children and with their own work commitments. So well done to all the family for all their support – he wouldn’t have got back to where he is without a big family effort.

Keep up the good work, Pramesh ! We expect to see many more fine performances from you over the next few years.

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