Johnson runs into form as Rio qualification deadline nears
Updated: Jul 03, 2016, 09:28 IST
NEW DELHI: 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 career. The middle-distance runner from the Army got not one, but two opportunities to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games. This 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 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 July 11 deadline for Rio qualification,” said AFI secretary CK Valson.
Three months back, Johnson had dominated the 800m in the 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.
Valson blamed the chief coach for not considering him. “It was the job of the head coach to give his recommendation. 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.
Nirmala Sheoran from Haryana clocked 51.48 secs to qualify for Rio Olympics in the women 400m event. So far she is the only Indian to come within the qualifying mark of 52.20 secs.