CHENNAI:Jisna Mathew resembles half-miler Tintu Luka in many aspects, apart from that, both are from the ‘PT Usha factory’. The 16-year-old avoids the camera just like her senior Tintu, who fastidiously shuns media attention.
Jisna’s frame is somewhat like Tintu — when she had arrived — thin but strong. A close study of Jisna’s running would also suggest a bit of Tintu’s style — head slightly wobbling but held high and arms moving away from the body in follow-through — an unpalatable trait for puritans.
Similarities don’t end here. Both entered the sport at 13. It was an 800m silver at the Asian Junior Championship in 2008 that gave Tintu the breakthrough, while Jisna shot to prominence from the recent Asian Youth Championship in Doha, where she bagged silver in 400m.
Apart from the metal, it’s the time she had clocked that demands attention. Improving vastly from a best of 54.68s to 53.84s in Doha, Jisna created a national junior record. It’s also the world’s ninth best in the youth category, and four of those ahead of her are a year older.
Then, there is this question: Does one year matters much? Yes, says coach Usha. “The muscle built, strength and speed will increase during teenage days. So athletes who are one year older will have more muscle power.”
Usha believes Jisna will take time to take full load. “We’re giving workouts with reduced intensity. She’s young, so we’re planning her routine with a long-term approach,” Usha says, revealing Jisna’s training routine that’s markedly different from what most Indian coaches preach.
Though training under the same roof, Jisna’s racing is in contrast with Tintu. The Kannur girl, though shorter (156cm to 164cm), has bigger strides and Usha attributes this to Jisna’s longer legs.
“Because of the length of her legs, Jisna’s strides are bigger. Apart from that, she carries herself smoothly, in contrast to Tintu. She’s more flexible and that marks her out from Tintu,” observes the legend.
The former track queen has often complained about Tintu running out of gas in the final 50 metres, and that she says is absent in Jisna. “That’s one thing I’m happy with. Jisna can accelerate in the last 50-100 metres, unlike Tintu, for whom finishing has always been a problem. We’re still working on it and we can tell how difficult it is for us to completely fine-tune that. Jisna has better endurance and once she is ripe enough to train in full swing, it will improve,” Usha reckons.
She also reveals her plan to make Jisna run in 800m. “I made her run 100 first, then 200 and now 400. When she is old enough, she will race 800m as well.”
Is Jisna aware of the expectations Usha has from her? “No. That feeling of being a winner hasn’t got into her head. She’s still raw. I’d promised to buy her spikes and shoes if she did well in Doha. After the medal, she asked about them. I gave her shoes and now she is awaiting spikes. She has no clue of what is happening outside,” Usha adds with a smile.