With stupendous form by his side, can Jinson Johnson become world's best?
With the Olympics qualifying dream yet to be achieved, Jinson will target his first-ever podium finish at the upcoming World Championships in Doha.
India's premier middle-distance runner Jinson Johnson is having a stupendous form by his side. The 28-year-old will be one of India's biggest medal hope at the IAAF World Championship this month, where he qualified after shattering his own 1,500m national record while clinching silver at the ISTAF Berlin event. The event was a part of the IAAF World Challenge meetings, the second tier of global one-day athletics events.
Johnson showed brilliance clocking 3:35.24 seconds to finish second behind Joshua Thompson of United States. Though it was Johnson's best-ever performance, he laments missing out on the Olympic qualification mark which is 3:35.00 secs. The Calicut lad will, however, eyes a medal at the Worlds in Doha.
To put things into perspective, Johnson’s performance in Berlin would have elicited him a sixth-place finish at the 2017 World Championships and also the gold medal at Rio Olympics, considering United States’ Matt Centrowitz had won the gold clocking 3:50.00 seconds -- the slowest timing by an Olympic winner over the metric mile in 80-year history.
Johnson broke the 23-year-old national record in 2018 bettering Bahadur Prasad's record. He also won the Asian Games gold in the 1500m race, with a time of 3:44.72. In June 2019, he bettered his timing again at the Next Generation Athletics meet in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, clocking 3:37.62 seconds. It was an eye-opener for Johnson, after which he worked consistently to improve on the last 300m of the race and in particular the home straight. It paid off well for him at Berlin.
This year had truly given Johnson a moment of reckoning when he consistently upped his game and shifted his focus from 800 metres to 1500 metres. For him, it was a matter of qualifying for the Olympics, which he felt wasn't quite feasible if he persisted in participating at 800-metre races. With larger distances, there is room for improvement. However, a calf injury also robbed the Keralite from winning potential medals at the Asian Athletics Championship. Johnson dropped out during the final lap of the 800 metres and did not start 1500. Bahrain's Abraham Rotich won the latter race clocking 3:42.85 seconds, whereas, Johnson had clocked a 3:41.67 in March to win the gold at Federation Cup in Patiala.
Going by the performances in the ongoing season, Johnson's Berlin finish places him at the 33rd position in the world, compared to Kenya's Timothy Cheruiyot, who tops the list with a superior timing of 3:28.77 seconds, which he furnished in July. With significant improvement in every tournament, Johnson has set his ultimate aim to bring a medal for India at Tokyo Olympics. The 28-year-old Arjuna Awardee is currently training in Colorado, USA under American coach Scott Simmons, who heads the American Distance Project, in a high-altitude environment to ensure that he is able to slash his timings consistently. Jinson represented India in the 800m at the Rio Olympics in 2016 where he failed to make it to the semis after clocking 1:47.27 in the heats.
With the Olympics qualifying dream yet to be achieved, Jinson will target his first-ever podium finish at the upcoming World Championships in Doha, and focussing only in 1500m may let him perform to his best of potential with an uncluttered mind.