A lot of running in Doha but Johnson is ready

Jinson Johnson expects to "put up a good performance" at the Asian Athletics Championships amid a strong competition in 800m and 1500m events.

Jinson Johnson (32) sprints to the finish line to win the gold medal in the men's 1500m at Asian Games 2018.   -  PTI

He was one of the big stars of the Jakarta Asian Games last year, the only Indian athlete to have an individual gold and silver around his neck.

Still, middle distance runner Jinson Johnson feels that the Asian Athletics Championships, which begins in Doha on Sunday, will not be an easy one.

“I’ve won medals at the last two Asians, but I can’t say anything about medals or whether it will be gold this time, but I expect to put up a good performance,” Johnson told Sportstar from Chennai on Thursday, a few hours before leaving for Doha.

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“This time I will be running on all the four days, the 800m preliminary and final rounds on the first two days and then the 1500m over the last two.” That will be five races in four days! 

MANJIT MISSING

And though Manjit Singh, who shocked the Kerala ace and won the Asiad 800m gold will be missing Doha with an injury, Johnson feels that he will have enough runners to watch out for.

“I have a good chance in the 1500m but there are a few runners who are just metric milers and I will be coming into the event after three 800m races (first round, semifinal and final), so that is one thing I should think about. But considering my good Asian Games experience (where he won the gold), I hope to do well,” said the 28-year-old, the national record holder in the 800m (1:45.65s) and 1500m (3:37.86s).

So who are Johnson’s big rivals?

“In the 800m I have the two Qataris, Jamal Hairane and Abdalla Abubaker, and Bahrain’s Abraham Rotich who has a personal best of 1:43.13. And in the 1500, I have Bahrain’s Mohamed Ayoub Tiouali (PB 3:34.52). But these are tactical races, so the race strategy will determine the result.

“And Qatar being a Gulf country, the competition between Gulf countries will be very strong. So I expect a tough fight.”

Qatar’s Morocco-born Hamza Driouch, a former under-20 World champion with a  personal best of 3:33.69s, and Musaab Ali could also pose a big threat in the 1500m.

Driouch was banned for two years in 2015 after irregularities were found in his biological passport and he was sixth in the Jakarta Asiad. And Ali’s best times (PB 3:36.67) have come in the Doha Diamond League.

HOPES TO QUALIFY EARLY

Johnson made the cut for the Rio Olympics’ 800m just as the doors were closing, on July 11, 2016, and this time his goal is to qualify early.

“The doors open on May 1, I hope to qualify early and prepare well for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. But qualification itself will be a big task, I will have to break the national record for that (qual. time 3:35.00). Even for this September’s Worlds, I will have to break the national record in the 1500m (qual. 3:36.00) to make the cut.”

The special in-stadium airconditioning technology at the Khalifa Stadium will mean that it will be a cool 24-26 degrees at the Doha Asians. Johnson’s two-and-half-month training regime in Ooty should stand him in good stead.