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Rio on mind, patience pays off for Army runner

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) told Johnson on Wednesday that he would compete in Thailand on July 4, followed by an event in Belgium on July 9.

other sports Updated: Jul 01, 2016 10:13 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times
Athletics,Jinson Johnson,Athletics Federation of India
Jinson Johnson will have another two chances to qualify for Rio Olympics, the AFI confirmed. (HT)

It’s been a case of first being denied the opportunity and then getting more than one option to realise a dream.

Wednesday could become a turning point in Jinson Johnson’s running career. The middle-distance runner from the Army got not one, but two opportunities to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games, after narrowly missing the Games qualification mark of 1:46.00 in 800m in the ongoing National Inter-State Athletics Championships at Hyderabad.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) told Johnson on Wednesday that he would compete in Thailand on July 4, followed by an event in Belgium on July 9. “We are making efforts to give him exposure before the July11 deadline for Rio qualification, so that he doesn’t miss the opportunity to compete there,” said AFI secretary CK Valson.

While the Thailand trip is sorted, the runner might face hurdles in procuring travel documents for Europe.

Three months back, Johnson had dominated the 800m in the Senior Federation Cup meet in Delhi. But his gold medal-winning effort of 1:47.65 sec wasn’t considered for international exposure. His Army coach, Kunhi Mohammed, too deserted him to oversee the training of the 400m runners at Poland’s Olympic training centre at Spala.

Even as the 400m runners, sprinters and javelin throwers were given opportunity to compete in international events to qualify for Rio, Johnson was ignored. Valson blamed the chief coach for not considering the Kerala runner. “It was the job of the head coach to give his recommendation to the federation. All those whose names were shortlisted were given the chance to train and compete on foreign soil,” said Valson.

But Johnson didn’t lose heart. He kept training at the high-altitude Ooty camp to pursue his dream. After the national camp was shifted from Ooty to Bengaluru in May, he opted to stay back. “With meagre resources it was tough. But with Rio on mind, I didn’t think about off-field issues and stayed at the Army hospital,” he said.

Lanka relay team for Hyderabad meet

The AFI has invited the Sri Lanka’s men’s 4x400m relay team for the Inter-state athletics meet in Hyderabad. With the participation of the island nation’s team, the event will become an Olympic qualification event. Despite India being ranking 21st in relay, Valson is hopeful. “The quartermilers clocked good times on the European tour recently. It will help improve the overall performance and earn a Rio berth,” he said. Before the deadline of July 11 to achieve the Rio qualification mark, India’s relay team will get more exposure.

First Published: Jul 01, 2016 10:13 IST