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Asian Games: From Kerala’s Mud Tracks to Asiad Podium, Jinson Johnson Makes Up For 800m Disappointment With 1500m Gold

Jinson Johnson was on the podium when the Indian national anthem played out in the GBK Main Stadium on Tuesday evening, but it wasn’t for him. In the 800m final, where he had gone in as a gold medal favourite, Johnson’s compatriot, the unfancied Manjit Singh, came from nowhere to change the script and make it his own.

Suprita Das | News18 Sports

Updated:August 30, 2018, 10:49 PM IST
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Jinson Johnson was on the podium when the Indian national anthem played out in the GBK Main Stadium on Tuesday evening, but it wasn’t for him. In the 800m final, where he had gone in as a gold medal favourite, Johnson’s compatriot, the unfancied Manjit Singh, came from nowhere to change the script and make it his own.

In the 1500m semi-final, Singh repeated his from-nowhere-to-leader show. But Johnson, the national record holder in the 1500m too, clocked 3:46:50, the second best timing in the qualification.

The 1500m, just like the 800m is an extremely technical race. Pacing up, slowing down, pacing up again – it’s all a part of race strategy. So, Johnson knew all too well, that numbers meant nothing, and neither did his national record, because all that mattered was the gold medal.

On Thursday evening, the 27-year-old started well, working his way to second spot comfortably. But, he’d saved his best for the last. On the final bend, running the very last 100m, Johnson upped his pace, clenched his teeth and ran on like he just would not allow anybody else to finish first!

And in 3:44:72s, Jinson Johnson became the first Indian to win a 1500m gold medal from the Asian Games in 56 years.

For the usually straight-faced Army man, that was a lot of expression of emotion. Possibly because the 800m silver had left him disappointed, and in the 1500m, in which he had broken Bahadur Prasad’s national record at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, he had a shot at redemption. As the national anthem played out, this time for him, you could see the contentment on Johnson’s face. And he allowed himself a slight smile too.

The podium was a long way from the 200m mud track of Kozhikode in Kerala, where Johnson was spotted by coach K Peter, who has trained several athletes from the state. It was at the Basellius Sports College in Kottayam where Johnson caught the eye of coach Immanuel George. And since then there was no looking back.

The 800m and 1500m are the twin gems of the track, which has seen legendary rivalries in the past between the likes of Sir Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram and Steve Ovett in the 70s and 80s. Very few runners around the world compete in both, let alone winning both.

Johnson is a rare breed in that sense, and would take his confidence of the gold-silver performance from the Asiad into a year that will have the World Championships. But before that, Johnson says, he would like to indulge in some belated Onam celebration, and deservedly so.

| Edited by: Madhav Agarwal
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