Johnson overcomes tough times to set new track record

Jinson Johnson’s late entry into athletics proved to be a blessing in disguise for the latest track star, whose unspent energy propelled him to break Sriram Singh's famous 800m National record set in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Kerala’s Jinson Johnson celebrates after setting a national record in the men's 800m event at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Wednesday.   -  PTI

Jinson Johnson’s late entry into athletics proved to be a blessing in disguise for the latest track star, whose unspent energy propelled him to break Sriram Singh's famous 800m National record set in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Hailing from a non-descript village in Calicut district of Kerala, Johnson was introduced to systematic training at the age of 18.

“I did athletics during my school days but there was no proper training. When I was in my Plus Two first year, I had the opportunity of training with one K.M. Peter, who had competed at the university level. After training with him for six months I got a silver medal in the state meet. Next year I won gold medals in the state, school Nationals and National junior meets,” said Johnson, who also owns the National record in 1500m.

“Starting proper training at 18 was beneficial as I preserved myself in younger days.”

Concerned about the early burnout of junior athletes, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has been promoting kids' athletics. “You cannot put them into all the events at an early age. It burns them out. The pressure of expectation is another factor,” said AFI secretary C.K. Valson.

Johnson, who got into the Kerala sports hostel in Kottayam and was groomed by Dr George Emanuel, joined the Army in 2009. He honed his skills under Ranjan Jha of the Army and then under Kuni Mohammed as he progressed to establish himself as an international athlete.

“My first international medal, a silver at Wuhan Asian championships in 2015, really boosted my confidence. Then I bagged several medals in Asian Grand Prix, competed in the Rio Olympics and gathered a bronze in the Bhubaneswar Asian championships last year.”

Tough times made Johnson a better athlete. “I had a lot of injuries in 2017, but I had to be patient. Running is no fun like cricket or football. You get tired and find it difficult to breath. But if you enjoy what you do, then you excel.”

For the 27-year-old lanky runner, who is eyeing to corner glory in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the two-lap race remains close to his heart. “I love 800m. You don't get time to think. In 1500m, you have to plan things and adjust according to the race,” Johnson signed off.