Smashing the national record in her debut international race was no mean feat but rising Indian hurdler Jyothi Yarraji does not want to get carried away by the achievement and the accolades around it.
Instead, she is ready to put in the hard yards to bring laurels for the country. The 22-year-old Jyothi smashed the 100m hurdles national record at the Cyprus International Meet at Limassol on Tuesday, clocking 13.23 seconds to better the old record of 13.38s, which stood in the name of Anuradha Biswal since 2002. The Andhra athlete, who is a trainee at the Reliance Foundation Odisha Athletics High Performance Centre in Bhubaneswar, had a bad start but went on to win the race in an impressive time.
Jyothi had the worst start among the seven competitors as she came out of the starting bloke in 0.243 seconds. She was behind local runner Natalia Christofi till the seventh hurdles, but surged ahead after the eighth to win the race. "It was a good time though I did not have the best of starts. I will learn as I compete more. It was a great experience running my first international race but don't want to think too much on this," Jyothi told PTI while returning from Cyprus to her training base.
Jyothi comes from a humble background as her father Suryanarayana is working as a private security guard and her mother is a house maid in Vishakhaptnam. "Dream of every athlete is to represent India and win gold medal. I am ready to work hard to bring laurels for the country," she said, adding that the hardships she faced early in her career due to financial problems of her family made her more determined to perform. "I was running my first race outside India, my first international race, but I was not nervous, I was all right and focussing on the race. "I was not thinking of blindly coming out of the starting bloke. I was thinking of applying the techniques I had learnt during training."
Her coach James Hillier said Jyothi did not hear the electronic starting gun right. "Electronic guns are used in Europe not hand gun like in India. It was a bad start. They (Jyothi and 200m national record holder Amalan Borgohain) will get used to it and hopefully produce better timing in the upcoming races," said the Welshman who is the head coach at the HPC in the Odisha capital. Jyothi, Borgohain and Hillier are currently based at Olympic Stadium Municipal Antonio Dominguez at Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. These Islands are part of Spain though they are more than 2000kms from the mainland. They are around 100km off the Morocco coast.
Jyothi and Borgohain are currently on a six-week training-cum-exposure tour of Europe and they will take part in three more competitions before flying back home on May 30. Their next competition is the Loughborough International Athletics Competition in the UK on May 22, followed by a meet in Vught in the Netherlands on May 26 and Flanders Cup International Competition (World Athletics Continental Tour Category C event) in Oordegem, Belgium.
Asked if she is aiming for sub-13 second timing during the Europe trip, she said, "I can't blindly tell and set timings. I will try to do my best and results will come." The World Championships qualifying time in women's 100m hurdles is 12.84s. On two earlier occasions, she had crossed Biswal's national record time but those were not counted as official NRs as there was no dope testing in one and the wind speed was beyond legal limit in the other. But on Tuesday, the wind speed was within legal limit (head wind 0.1 m/s) and her dope sample was collected after the Cyprus event.
Asked if it was a relief for her now that she owns the national record, Jyothi said, "That's is fine. What happened has happened, I feel everything which happens in life is for good only. "Whatever happens in life, we have to accept and move forward." Hillier, on his part, wants to be realistic in setting targets. "A lot of good things are there. By the time we reach Belgium, they will be familiar with the whole thing how the competitions work in Europe and be better prepared. "Hopefully, they will improve timings by the end of the trip. But we have to be realistic," said Hillier who has mentored the likes of Rio Olympics 4x400m relay bronze medallist Emily Diamond in the past.
Asked if Jyothi can aim to qualify for the World Championships in USA in July, Hillier said, "Asian Games and World University Games are cancelled now, so their (Jyothi and Borgohain) target is CWG principally. "World Championships, why not? That is the level they want to go but the standard there is incredibly high. There is an outside chance (to qualify for World Championships). Jyothi will need to run 3m ahead to clock 12.90s. "In case they don't get to qualify but get quite close to that (qualifying time), that will be an achievement in itself," said Hillier who lauded Reliance Foundation chairperson Nita Ambani for her vision to set up the HPC in collaboration with Odisha government.