Jinson Johnson hopes to turn on the magic in Tokyo

Asian Games champion plans to run only 1500m at 2020 Olympics.

Jinson Johnson..."I think I can do well at the Tokyo Olympics." Photo: Stan Rayan

Jinson Johnson ran the 800m at the Rio Olympics in 2016, but now, as he looks ahead to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the Asian Games gold medallist feels his chances are much better in the 1500m.

“My first major international meet in the 1500m was the Commonwealth Games early this year. And I broke a 23-year-old record, clocking 3:37.06 at Gold Coast,” the 27-year-old told Sportstar at the Regional Sports Centre (RSC) here on Thursday night. “That was a good time and after that we had the Asian Games where I won the gold. That has given me new hope and extra confidence.”

Incidentally, this year has been a wonderful one for Johnson. Apart from breaking Sriram Singh’s 42-year-old National record recently, the Kozhikode-born Armyman also won a silver in the two-lapper at the Asian Games. “I have done many international meets in the 800m but this was the first time I was doing both the middle distance events in a major international competition,” said Johnson of his Jakarta performance.

‘Need to run more world-class competitions’

Now that he has picked his 2020 Olympics event, the Kerala runner feels he needs more international exposure to do well in Tokyo. “I need to run more world-class competitions, that experience will stand me in good stead. I’ve just run three world-class competitions so far…the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the Continental Cup. And though I could not win a medal, they have offered me plenty of lessons,” said Johnson, whose 3:37.06 at Gold Coast, where he finished fifth, improved his previous best by nearly nine seconds.

Johnson trained in Bengaluru, Ooty and Bhutan for the Asian Games. “I didn’t need much top-quality international exposure before the Asian Games because I had done a lot of Asian Grand Prix meets and also the Asian Championships,” said Johnson who, along with Kerala’s other Asiad medallists, were honoured with RSC life memberships and gold coins at the Kochi event.

Read - Jinson Johnson: I will now focus on 1500m till Tokyo Olympics

“And there is a huge difference between the Asian level and the World level, one has 45 countries, the other has more than 200. There is a lot of difference in running style and race strategies, too, between these two events.”

The Rio Olympics, where American Matthew Centrowitz won the 1500m gold in a shockingly slow 3:50s, proved that strange things can happen in distance running. That, and his current form, has made Johnson confident about the 2020 Olympics. “I think I can do well at the Tokyo Olympics, we can expect something in the 1500m. I’ve run 3:37, now I need to raise my performance level,” he said.

“At the Commonwealth, we had the world champion (Kenya’s Elijah Manongoi) who won the gold in 3:34 something. That is where I need to improve, I’m working hard for that.”

Can Johnson turn on the magic at the Olympics, too?

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