After Chengdu high, coach sets fresh target for 100m hurdler Jyothi Yarraji - Hindustan Times
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After Chengdu high, coach sets fresh target for 100m hurdler Jyothi Yarraji

Aug 05, 2023 09:12 PM IST

James Hillier is confident the rising Indian athletics star can achieve greater glory after bettering her national mark yet again at the world varsity games

"Not personal best, not national record, not her bronze medal. All she spoke about was missing the Paris Olympics qualification by 0.01 seconds," James Hillier recounts his chat with his ward, 100m hurdler Jyothi Yarraji, hours after her record-breaking run at the World University Games in Chengdu on Friday.

This "insatiable hunger" -- as Hillier puts it -- sets his ward apart after she rewrote her own national record for an astounding 10th time since last year.(Reliance Foundation)
This "insatiable hunger" -- as Hillier puts it -- sets his ward apart after she rewrote her own national record for an astounding 10th time since last year.(Reliance Foundation)

This "insatiable hunger" -- as Hillier puts it -- sets his ward apart after she rewrote her own national record for an astounding 10th time since last year.

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"When she won the Asian Championships last month, she was delighted for winning the gold but was equally upset for making a few errors in the final (on a wet track). That's why this competition was important because we wanted to head into the World Championships and Asian Games on the back of a near-perfect performance. When you get to the high level, you can't afford to make any mistakes. Jyothi expects the same from herself."

The 23-year-old from Visakhapatnam clocked 12.78 secs to finish third, behind Slovakia’s Viktoria Forster (12.72sec) and China’s Yanni Wu (12.76s). Yarraji made it to the final by winning her heat on Thursday clocking 13.12secs before acing the semi-final heat on Friday clocking 13.05 secs. Hillier, athletics director at Reliance Foundation where Yarraji trains, was happy with how she paced herself through each round.

"That is one of our guiding principles. You need to run your best race in the finals; it may not be the best race of the day but it has to be your best race. The results will follow," he said.

"You don't run your best race by sheer luck. We plan for it all year round. I am happy that both Jyothi and Amlan Borgohain -- he won the men's 200m bronze-- could do that."

That planning involves making Yarraji and Borgohain run multiple races in training and asking them to get faster with each race. "I don't make things easy for them in training. A lot of credit must also go to the athletes' mindset to keep improving each time they run.

"Energy conservation is an important component of our planning. You saw in women's 100m hurdles, the top three did their personal bests while the others ran the final slower than their semis. This is consistent across championships all over the world. A lot of athletes peak in the semis and struggle in the final. So, we have made an effort to be ready for any situation -- whether you make us run thrice in one day or give us one race each day, we'll be ready.

"I told Amlan before the final that going faster than his semi-final timing of 20.57 secs would be tough but it is achievable, and if he does it, he'll win a medal. And he ran his season's best 20.55 secs to win bronze. It all comes down to training. Some days I make them run 100m and 200m the same day. Sometimes I make them run three races in a single day," Hillier explained.

While only 0.06 secs separated the top three in the 100m hurdles, Yarraji overcame her typically slow start at around the 60m mark before finishing with a burst of power. The start is an area that is being closely looked at by Hillier, but he is wary of tinkering Yarraji's natural style too much.

"She may appear a slow starter, but she has improved quite a lot. It is something we are working on, but at the same time we do not want to compromise with her strength, which is her strong finish. We don't want her to accelerate too early and taper off towards the end. Ultimately, it is how you finish that matters."

Yarraji will head to Budapest for her maiden World Championships (Aug 19-27) where Hillier's primary goal will be to ensure she finishes better than her world ranking of 30.

"Then, we want her to do her personal best in Budapest and Hangzhou (Asian Games). If she makes it to the Worlds final, that will be a big bonus, but we are really working towards making sure she reaches the Paris Olympics final next year. A good result in Budapest will be an ideal stepping stone in that direction."

Yarraji will resume training for the Worlds after a week's rest. Budapest will be followed by a four-week camp in Bengaluru before the Asian Games. "She is peaking well for the Worlds and the Asiad. The four-week training blocks ahead of major championships work for her. We tried it ahead of last year's National Open where she set a national record. We believe Jyothi will be ready to better her best in Hangzhou. She has the potential to go really far."

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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