Jinson Johnson injured, Olympic qualification tough
An Athletics Federation of India (AFI) official confirmed that the lanky athlete from the Kozhikode district in Kerala got injured at the high-altitude training base in Colorado Springs, USA in early November and had returned last week to undergo rehabilitation in Mumbai.Updated: Dec 07, 2019 11:31 IST
Jakarta Asian Games gold medallist in 1500m, Jinson Johnson’s hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games have suffered a big setback after the middle-distance runner returned from his training base in the United States with a damaged Achilles heel tendon.
An Athletics Federation of India (AFI) official confirmed that the lanky athlete from the Kozhikode district in Kerala got injured at the high-altitude training base in Colorado Springs, USA in early November and had returned last week to undergo rehabilitation in Mumbai. Johnson had gone to the US in August to train under Scott Simmons, who runs the American Distance Project, to prepare for Olympic qualification.
“Johnson has severely damaged the Achilles heel tendon in his left foot because of which he couldn’t train all November and might also miss training in December and January 2020,” said the AFI official on condition of anonymity.
With the Olympic qualification window closing in June, 2020 and Johnson still missing the qualifying time by a fair margin, things could get more difficult for the 28-year-old.
AFI chief Adille Sumariwalla did not respond to calls to shed light on the nature of the injury, while Rajesh Rajagoplan—the CEO of Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), which supports Johnson’s training and competitive programme—did not answer calls or reply to emails.
However, Army Sports Institute (Pune) Commandant, Col Rakesh Yadav, said, “All the agencies, including TOPS, were monitoring his performance as well as injury. It (Colorado Springs) was a good platform to train but he couldn’t cope up with sub-zero November temperatures,” Col Yadav said from Pune.
A national-level coach based in Patiala said, “The injury had made his task of achieving the Olympic qualifying time of 3:35.00 sec difficult, if not impossible. There are two ways by which one can qualify for the Olympics. First is by achieving the Olympic qualification mark and second is by earning ranking points in five national and international meets recognised by the World Athletics.”
Johnson has a personal best of 3:35.24 sec clocked at the ISTAF meet at Berlin in September. His performance dipped thereafter and during the season-ending World Military Games in Wuhan, China, he finished fifth, clocking 3:49.89 sec.
Expectations were high from Johnson during the World Championships in Doha (Sept 27 to Oct 6) but he crashed out in the heats, clocking 3:39.86 sec. He finished 34th overall out of 43 competitors.
This is the second time in 10 months that Johnson has been sidelined by injury. In April, a calf injury, suffered during the 800m race at the Asian Championships in Doha, forced him to quit. He also pulled out of the 1500m event. Johnson bounced back in June, setting a national record (3:37.62) at the Next Generation Meet in the Dutch city of Nijmegen, eclipsing his previous best of 3:37.86 sec posted during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Johnson came into limelight in June last year when he clocked 1:45.65 sec in 800m at the Inter-State meet in Guwahati to erase Sriram Singh’s four-decade old record of 1:45.77. He continued his good run at the 2018 Asian Games, clinching the 1500m title and silver in 800m behind compatriot Manjit Singh.
“His comeback is more challenging this time compared to last year,” said the national-level coach. But Col Yadav is hopeful Johnson will bounce back. “We are confident of his recovery before the 2020 competitive season starts in March,”