Road to Rio: Jinson Johnson, the first Indian Olympian in Men's 800m event since 1984
Jinson Johnson will look to become the first Indian athlete to advance to the second round in the Men's 800m event for the first time since 1980.
Name: Jinson Johnson
Category: Men's 800m
Qualification: Jinson Johnson virtually ran a 'solo race' to clock 1:45.98 secs and better the Rio qualifying norm of 1:46.00 in men's 800m event at the Indian Grand Prix in Bengaluru in July 2016.
Strengths: Johnson started off as a 1500m runner and the high endurance he attained helps him maintain his speed throughout the course of the 800m race. The longer events have made him a better runner for the 800m event.
Past Olympic performance: Debut
Past record (best performances): Three gold medals in each leg of the Asian Grand Prix in 2015,
-Silver medal in 2015 Asian Athletics Championship in Wuhan
Rio Prospects: A medal at Rio seems an uphill task but Jinson Johnson will look to become the first Indian athlete to advance to the second round in the Men's 800m event for the first time since 1980.
Jinson Johnson is a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Indian army who was born in Chakkittapara village of the Kozhikode district of Kerala to parents, Kulachal Johnson and Shailaja. Jonshon prospered in sports since an early age and it was during a District Athletics Championship — where he finished third, was when he caught the eye of Peter Karimbanakuzhy — former Bank secretary and a coach at the Chakkittapara village sports Academy.
Under Karimbanakuzhy's tutelage, Johnson burst onto the national scene and won gold medals in 800 meters at National Junior Sports Championship at Vijayawada in 2007 and the 1500 meters at the National School Meet, Kolkata.
He then joined the army, where he further sharpened his skills as a half-miler. His mentor at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, Mohammad Kunji, distinguished Johnson from the rest of the athletes at the academy thanks to his determination and focus. “Among those from that batch, I continue to coach only Johnson. There were others who were physically as capable as him but his determination and focus makes him stand apart. He is not someone who will give excuses. In the army he was promoted from sepoy to subedar to JCO. He is an athlete with a bright future,” Kunji told Indian Express in an interaction in 2015.
Johnson, who ran the third-fastest race by an Indian in the 800m category, qualified for his first-ever Olympics at the Indian Grand Prix in Bengaluru in July 2016. The army man will face an uphill battle as he attempts to become the first athlete to go past the first round in that category since 1980.
But the fact that he became the first Indian to qualify for the Men's 800m event since 1984, will have injected immense confidence into Johnson as he heads into the mega event.
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