Five years ago as Jinson Johnson walked around with a gold and silver from the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, many were wondering how far he would go. The next year he broke his own 1500m national record, bringing it down to 3:35.24s in Berlin, and looked set to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where the entry standard was 3:35.00.
Clearly, Johnson appeared to be enjoying a bright phase with more happy days ahead.
But life has its strange twists and turns. Johnson was forced to pull up in 800m final at the Doha Asian Championships in April 2019 with a calf injury and a few months after his national record-breaking run in Berlin, he suffered an Achilles tendon injury. A hard-hitting covid-19 followed, in 2021, and last year he had a hamstring injury.
Having lost some of his best years to injury and Covid, Johnson is now back for next week’s Asian Championships in Bangkok, his first major championship in four years. And the 2018 and 2019 Asian leader is now 14 th in this year’s list, a chart which has four Japanese in the top 10.
His current situation has now made Johnson run to 2015 for comfort.
“I’ll be going to the Thailand Asians with the same sort of feeling I had when I went for the 2015 Asians in Wuhan, China. That was my first international meet and I was very excited then. This is a sort of new start for me,” said Johnson, in a chat with Sportstar, from Bengaluru on Friday.
“I did my best then, got a medal (silver, 800m)...the previous year, no Indian male had got a medal at the Asian Games in middle-distance events. Now, I’m looking to do my best.”
Johnson, who has a 1500m season’s best of 3:40.99s (USA, June), is not at his best.
“I did two competitions in the US and two more in the country, the Federation Cup and inter-State. I did not get much time to do workouts for improving my performance. I expect to prepare well for the Asian Games (September, China) in the two months available after the Asians. My focus this year is the Asiad,” said the 32-year-old.
“I did those 3:40 to 3:42 races recently and I’m hoping to do the Asians in that same flow. I see these Asians as a nice exposure competition.”
Johnson, who is sponsored by the Reliance Foundation, feels his chances of qualifying for this August’s Budapest World Championships are very low.
“We improve step by step and I have been bringing down my time slowly...to suddenly think of doing 3:34.20s (Worlds entry standard) is difficult. And I’m down in the ranking route too,” said the 1500m gold and 800m silver medallist at the last Asian Games.
“The Paris Olympics qualifying time of 3:33.50 is also very tough, not just for Indians. And world over, athletes have expressed their worry over this. I will try my best to get in through the rankings route.”
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