After 2019 high and Tokyo low, MP Jabir emerges with more confidence in his abilities
“It is the best experience till day in my sports career. I was running alongside the Olympic medalist and world champions," MP Jabir tells The Bridge.
MP Jabir etched himself in the Indian sports history book when he became the first Indian man to qualify for the Olympics in 400m hurdles. The now 26-year-old from Kerala also became the first from the country to compete in 400m hurdles at the quadrennial event in Tokyo since PT Usha last appeared in the 1988 Seoul Games.
However, Jabir had a forgettable outing in Tokyo. He failed to qualify for the semi-finals finishing last in his heat and overall 35th with a time of 50.77 seconds which is far best from his personal best of 49.13.
It has been 20 months since then and the Indian Navy athlete wants to move on from his 'not-so-good' performance at the marquee event.
"It was the worst time of my life. I do not want to remember it," Jabir tells The Bridge almost breaking down.
“I have to perform well and am focused on the Asian Games and the Paris Olympics. I am hopeful of making good progress this year and performing at the highest level for my country," he adds.
The hurdler's eyes, though, lit up on the mention of the 2019 season. That was Jabir's best year on the track clinching a bronze at the Asian Championship with a personal best and subsequently punching above his weight in the World Championships that followed.
“It is the best experience till day in my sports career. I was running alongside the Olympic medalist and world champions. It was one of the best moments of my career," Jabir recalls.
After announcing his arrival at the elite level in 2019, Jabir's performance took a dip owing to multiple injuries and an ankle surgery.
“Injuries are one of the biggest issues in athletics. I have struggled with injuries in the past two years. It was tough after my ankle surgery as the body takes some time to recover from such an injury," said Jabir.
“Due to the covid-19 gap and surgery to my right ankle, my performance dipped quite a bit but I have recovered fully now. I am feeling more confident now," he further added.
During his struggle with injuries, Jabir received immense support from his employer, Indian Navy.
“Armed forces is one of the best departments for any sports person. The Indian Navy has supported me immensely during my bad times and I’ll suggest athletes take up Army if you want make a career out of sports," Jabir said.
The past few years have seen the rise of Indian athletics with field disciplines like long jump, javelin throw, triple jump, and high jump witnessing Indian athletes stamping their authority at the highest level.
While Indian athletes are yet to stamp their authority in track events at the world level, MP Jabir believes that Indian youngsters have the potential to win at the top level.
“Indians can do it at the world level, things are improving now. A lot of young hurdlers are coming up now and they have the potential to win medals," he concluded.