Worlds on his mind, Kishore Kumar Jena aims to prolong dream run - Hindustan Times

Worlds on his mind, Kishore Kumar Jena aims to prolong dream run

By, New Delhi
Aug 04, 2023 09:22 PM IST

Having improved his personal best four times this year already, the 27-year-old has his sights set on bigger challenges

At the start of the year, Kishore Kumar Jena would have scoffed at the suggestion of him competing in his maiden World Championships or Asian Games. Yet, here he is. His 84.38m personal best sitting pretty as the world's tenth-best throw of the year, Jena is in the middle of a productive overseas run that has seen him win gold medals at the Lebanon National Championships (78.96m) and Sri Lankan Championships (84.38m).

Kishore Kumar Jena's personal best of 84.38m is sitting pretty as the world's tenth-best throw of the year
Kishore Kumar Jena's personal best of 84.38m is sitting pretty as the world's tenth-best throw of the year

"It's a bit like a dream, but I have worked really hard for this," he said. Jena started the year in March by winning the Indian Open Throws Competition in Bellary. In the absence of DP Manu and Rohit Yadav, Jena had no real challenge, and he cashed in with a throw of 78.93m, his then-personal best.

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"That was a major confidence boost. I had worked hard on my technique in the off-season and to get the results in the first competition itself set me up nicely for the season," he said.

That personal best would be overhauled thrice in the ensuing months as he logged throws of 81.05m in March at the Indian Grand Prix and 82.87m in June at the National Inter-State Championships in June. A little over a month later, he threw 84.38m in Diyagama, Sri Lanka to qualify for this month's Budapest Worlds on the basis of world rankings.

"I owe a lot to my coach Samarjeet Singh Malhi at NIS Patiala. He worked hard on small technical areas that took my performance to a different level," Jena added. These included gradually increasing his approach from 14m to 23m, tweaking his holding position to make it more side-on, and reducing his angle of release.

"I am still not 100 percent there. It is not easy to change your technique so late but the coach has been really patient. With a little more effort, I should be able to improve my personal best (PB) again," he said.

"I know the Worlds and Asiad are grand stages but I hope to deal with the pressure and do my best. If I am able to improve my PB again, I will consider those outings successful."

Jena took up javelin in 2015 after he was considered too short for volleyball at Bhubaneswar sports hostel. He soon joined CISF and was posted in Bhopal where he continued to train. In October 2021, Jena won the National Open Javelin Throw Championship in Delhi with a throw of 74.26m. It was at this event that Malhi spotted him and took him under his wings.

"He brought me to the national camp and polished my technique. I have had a stint at the Reliance High Performance Centre in Bhubaneswar too which has helped me. The results are beginning to show."

Neeraj effect

Quite like other javelin throwers in the country, Jena credits Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra for helping him dream. Chopra's unprecedented success has meant that Indian throwers are never short of belief, a factor Jena believes gives the crucial competitive edge at major events.

"We feel if Neeraj can do it, so can we. This is something very unique that he has done for this generation of javelin throwers. When we look at him going about his business at world events, we feel nothing is beyond our reach."

Besides Chopra, Jena counts Czech legend Jan Zelezny as his inspiration and is particularly floored by the latter's technical finesse. "There are no faults I can pick in Zelezny's technique. Everything about him appears so fluid and perfect. As far as Neeraj is concerned, I like his flexibility. He puts his entire body in the throws and that is made possible by his sublime flexibility," he explained.

Not surprisingly, Chopra is the only athlete Jena is looking forward to meet in Budapest. "Neeraj congratulated me via a text message after I did my PB recently even though we have never met. It shows he is such a nice person. I don't know much about foreign athletes but Neeraj is someone who I am looking forward to interacting with."

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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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