Two to thrill

“Jessy Joseph will run faster this year. I expect her to come down to something like 2:05.8 this year itself,” says her coach P.T. Usha.-THULASI KAKKAT

Like Saina and Sindhu in badminton, races between Tintu Luka and Jessy Joseph should set the tracks on fire in a year or two. By Stan Rayan.

On the road to the Indian Badminton League, the Saina Nehwal versus P.V. Sindhu battle was the one everyone was looking forward to.

There was a lot riding on the two, one 23 and an Olympic bronze medallist, the other a World Championship bronze medallist at 18. And both trained by the same coach.

Even their coach Gopi Chand revealed recently that he would not be anywhere near the court when the two play each other. That makes the matches between the two all the more interesting.

Well, there could be something similar cooking in Indian athletics. If not now, at least by the time the next Olympics comes around, in Rio in 2016.

We’re talking about the 17-year-old Jessy Joseph who has some very impressive performances in the women’s 800m. Her rivalry with Olympian Tintu Luka, an Asian medallist and women’s national record holder, should set the tracks on fire in about a couple of years. Both are coached by P.T. Usha at her school of athletics in Kozhikode.

The two were in action at the 53rd Open Nationals in Ranchi the other day. Railway’s 24-year-old Kerala-born Tintu, as expected, won the 800m with a fast run but it was Kerala’s Jessy who turned in the most impressive performance, despite finishing fourth.

SCORCHING RUN

Jessy improved her personal best from 2:09.90 sec., which came at the Senior Inter-State Nationals in Chennai in June, by more than three seconds with a 2:06.82s run at Ranchi. That helped her easily better the under-18 national record of West Bengal’s Jhuma Khatum (2:08.96) by more than two seconds!

“Since I was going with Tintu the last couple of years, I could never accompany Jessy for meets but this time, I went with her for the Open Nationals. We went by flight to Ranchi,” said Usha. “So, I was able to advise her well before the race and she ran accordingly. I advised her how to take each 200 and she ran well.”

Usha felt that Jessy could have run faster in Ranchi, which apart from Tintu had the seasoned Sinimol Markose (Paulose) and Sushma Devi in the fray. The track was wet and it was raining too.

“She will run faster this year,” said Usha. “I expect her to come down to something like 2:05.8 this year itself. She got stuck in a ‘block’ in the Ranchi race so she couldn’t go for a complete open run.”

MORE STUNNING RUNS

Jessy is likely to come up with more stunning runs next season. “I am trying to bring her to the 2:02 range next season. She is capable of chopping off another three seconds to something like 2:02.5,” explained Usha. “But after that, bringing down each second will be a lot slower, tougher too. I’ve not given her any heavy load, so she is capable of doing 2:02 when I give her that sort of work.”

Jessy, born on December 8, 1995 at hilly Kootukal near Nilambur in Malappuram District, has been a rather unlucky girl. She missed the recent Youth Worlds in Ukraine as she was born three weeks before the cut-off birth date for the championship. That has often been the case for her when it came to major junior and youth international meets.

However, it also turned out to be a blessing. She took part in many senior national meets and this gave her the opportunity to taste tough top-class competitions at a young age and helped her to grow up faster.

DIFFERENT STYLES

Tintu and Jessy have different styles and adopt different strategies in the two-lap event.

Tintu is a front-runner while Jessy is comfortable at the back, tailing the leader and playing a patient waiting game before going for the ‘strike’.

Playing with Saina almost every day has given the young badminton star Sindhu loads of confidence. Jessy too has gained immensely by training with Tintu.

Jessy running fast should also push Tintu to faster timings in a country where she has been winning with ease.-R. RAGU

“Since she has been running with Tintu, she could pace her race accordingly as she had Tintu in front,” explained Usha. “She is also able to understand things better now and she is slowly getting the seriousness of the sport.” Jessy running fast should also push Tintu to faster timings in a country where she has been winning with ease.

“That should be the best part,” said Usha. “Tintu is very motivated now, she has already run 1:59.17 (which currently is the Indian record). She knows that she is coming close to that form. And she knows where things went wrong for her in recent meets.

“At the recent Moscow World Championship, the bronze went for 1:57.91s. Earlier, medals used to go for timings like 1:55, 1:56 but now with WADA (World Anti-doping Agency) making life tough for athletes on drugs, the timings have slowed down, 1:57.3, 1:57.5 will bring you medals at the World meets. It will not be tough for Tintu to cut down that one second from her best and aim for a big medal.”

And next year, with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (Scotland, in July-August) and the Asian Games in Incheon (Korea, Sept.-Oct.) lined up, the fare on track should be a thrilling one. So, who will finally emerge the better of the two?

“Jessy has a good physique and she is a lot healthier than Tintu, so Jessy has a very good chance of doing well. But Tintu will break her own records and go faster still.”

Clearly, Usha does not want to take sides. And when her two best athletes fight it out at their peak on the track, like Gopi Chand, she will watch the action from a corner far away.