A year ago, at the Asian championships here, Joseph Abraham had just won the silver in the 400m hurdles behind Japanese Kenji Narisako. It was his best achievement till then, an improvement over his bronze in 2007.
Yet, he wore a worried look after the race. The reason: he had accidentally stepped into the inside lane as he cleared the last hurdle. For a few minutes, this soft-spoken Kerala and Railway athlete did think that he had wasted all the hard work by that accidental mistake. Would he be disqualified?
Luckily he was not. Whether the referee had taken note of it or whether the technical officials had ignored it since the infringement had occurred on the straight with no one being obstructed was difficult to tell.
The result stood. It was a relief for an athlete who had just three months earlier been disqualified for a hurdling violation during the heats at the World championships in Berlin.
Two years earlier, at the Osaka Worlds, Abraham had set his National mark of 49.51s in the semifinals, finishing seventh. “This race was for medals and not timings,” said Abraham on Thursday night as he soaked in the atmosphere, in between gasping for air, amidst the attention he was getting from the media after having won the Asian Games gold in 49.96s, his eighth best time ever.
There were no worries this time about stepping into an inside lane or a hurdling violation that was slapped on Narisako, who was disqualified.
Abraham worked hard over that deficiency. It is about the trailing leg going below the plane of the top of the hurdle, something that you can do quite inadvertently.
“We changed his lead leg on the sixth hurdle. He now leads with the left there and that gives no chance for side hurdling,” said coach Rajinder Singh on phone from Patiala.
“Joseph ran a tactical race last night. He used to run the first five hurdles very fast. He slowed down and ran the first five with rhythm,” said a proud Rajinder, who is currently the junior National coach and has to spare his time for Abraham. He might not be able to do that on a regular basis since the junior camps are held at Bhopal while the senior camps are held in Patiala and Bangalore.
“I was sure of his gold. His fitness levels had reached close to that of 2007. He was very determined after he failed to make the final in the Commonwealth Games,” said Rajinder.
Abraham said once he saw Narisako in the heats, where he finished behind the Japanese, he was sure of the gold.
Rajinder hoped the success of Abraham and A.C. Ashwini would provide the right focus on hurdling in the coming months, towards a good build-up for next year's World championships and then the London Olympics.
Abraham's present worry is in getting his wife, Smithamol Joseph, also an athlete, a transfer from Central Railway to Southern Railway in Thiruvananthapuram. A request has been made to the Railway authorities and he was optimistic.
Keywords: Asian Games 2010