Athletics

Strong field, but Johnson ready for Doha

Jinson Johnson.

Jinson Johnson.   | Photo Credit: VIVEK TRIPATHI.

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Confident of not returning empty-handed from Asian championships

He was one of the big stars of the Jakarta Asian Games last year, the only Indian athlete to have an individual gold and silver around his neck.

Still, middle-distance runner Jinson Johnson feels the Asian Athletics Championships, which begin in Doha on Sunday, will not be an easy one.

“I won medals at the last two Asians, but I can’t say anything about medals or whether it will be gold this time, but I expect to put up a good performance,” Johnson told The Hindu from Chennai on Thursday.

“This time I will be running on all four days — 800m preliminary and final rounds on the first two days and 1500m over the last two.”

Manjit missing

And though Manjit Singh, who shocked the Kerala ace and won the Asiad 800m gold will be missing Doha with an injury, Johnson feels he will have enough runners to watch out for.

“I have a good chance in the 1500m but there are a few runners who are metric milers and I will be coming into the event after three 800m races (first round, semifinal and final), so that is one thing I should think about.

“But considering my Asian Games experience (where he won gold), I hope to do well,” said the 28-year-old, the National record holder in 800m (1:45.65s) and 1500m (3:37.86s).

The big rivals

“In the 800m I have the two Qataris, Jamal Hairane and Abdalla Abubaker, and Bahrain’s Abraham Rotich, who has a personal best of 1:43.13s.

“And in the 1500, I have Bahrain’s Mohamed Ayoub Tiouali (PB 3:34.52). But these are tactical races, so strategy will determine the result.”

Qatar’s Morocco-born Hamza Driouch, a former under-20 World champion with a personal best of 3:33.69s, and Musaab Ali could also pose a big threat in the 1500m.

Driouch was banned for two years in 2015 after irregularities were found in his biological passport and he was sixth in the Jakarta Asiad. And Musaab’s best times (PB 3:36.67) have come in the Doha Diamond League.

Olympic hopes

Johnson made the cut for the Rio Olympics’ 800m just as the doors were closing, on July 11 2016, and this time his goal is to qualify early.

“The doors open on May 1, I hope to qualify early and prepare well for Tokyo. I will have to break the National record (qual. time 3:35.00). Even for this September’s Worlds, I will have to break the National record in the 1500m (qual. 3:36.00) to make the cut.”

The special in-stadium air-conditioning technology at the Khalifa Stadium will mean that it will be a cool 24-26 degrees at Doha. Johnson’s two-and-a-half month training in Ooty should stand him in good stead.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 8:23:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/athletics/strong-field-but-johnson-ready-for-doha/article26878269.ece

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