The men’s 800m final race was a fascinating one to watch. Qatar’s Abubaker Abdalla and Abraham Rotich were the pre-favourites of the competition. For India, all eyes were fixed upon Jinson Johnson, who is the holder of the national record. But it was the less-talked-about Manjit Singh who pulled a rabbit out of the hat, gifted himself an early birthday gift (it’s on 1st September) and took the gold medal with a timing of 1:46:15. Jinson came second with 1:46:35.
It was a shock for everyone, who tuned in to the race. Manjit had qualified for the final as the eighth-fastest athlete in semi-finals with a time of 1:48:64 as compared to Johnson, who had won the semi-finals with a timing of 1:47:39.
Manjit was nowhere in the scene in the first lap. But started to build up from the second lap onwards. By the time, the last 100m approached, Manjit made a dashing splash to go from being fourth to win the most unexpected gold. A perfect story of the underdog triumphing over the fancied opponents, repeating itself all over again. He even bettered his personal best of 1:46:24 in Inter-State Championship in Guwahati in June this year.
It also meant that it was India’s second-only one-two finish in 800m at the Asian Games since Ranjit Singh and Kulwant Singh achieved the feat at the inaugural edition held in New Delhi in 1951.
But all hasn’t been a rosy ride for the long jumper-turned-distance runner, hailing from Jind, Haryana. Manjit is currently jobless and is being presently coached by Amreesh Kumar of Indian Army. Manjit gave credit of his success to his training of one-and-a-half years in Ooty followed by a camp in Bhutan before participating in Asian Games by adding “I had prepared well. I had strategised to follow runners initially and then push towards the last 100-150m. I did it and won the gold for my country,”.
Manjit also gave a glimpse of how he self-motivated himself in a post-race interview with PTI, “I saw videos of my races at national and international competitions and analysed the mistakes. I was motivated to improve myself”. He further added “I was very hopeful. I had prepared accordingly. I never thought of bettering the national mark. I just wanted to give my best.”
Manjit’s story is an inspiring tale of how despite all the difficulties and adversities in life, one should never give up on sight of their goals and then achieve them when no one gives them a chance to do so.