KOCHI: Jinson Johnson might still be basking in the glory of having won a gold and a silver medal apiece at the recently concluded Asian Games in Jakarta, but the middle-distance runner from Kerala is already charting his course for the future.
At 27, one could argue that the Calicut athlete is reaching the pinnacle of his sporting career and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment for the current Asia numero uno in the 800m circuit.
However, the window of opportunity also brings with it a very pressing question for Jinson, one that needs him to make a choice between 800m, the event in which he had won qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the 1,500m, his pet event in which he won the Asiad gold.
And it looks like the die has already been cast for the athlete. “The 2019 Asian Athletics Championship in Doha, slated for next June-July, will be the last international event where I will be competing in both the races,” Jinson told Express.
When Jinson returns to the Qatari city in September for the 2019 IAAF World Championships, he would have already quit running in the two-lap races and shifted his focus solely to the longer, more-gruelling 1,500m event of the quadrennial sporting tournament in 2020.
“I took the advice of three men who have helped me throughout my career: national coach JS Bhatia sir, my former coach at Indian Army Muhammed Kunhi sir and my first coach KM Peter sir. And all three were of the opinion that such a move will be beneficial for me going forward,” said Jinson.
“800m will hold a special place in my heart as it is the event I competed in at the 2016 Olympics. But it isn’t really possible to run four or five races in the space of a few days and still maintain a high level at international events,” said Jinson, who had clocked 1:47.27s in the 800m heats in Rio but narrowly missed out on a semifinal berth.
The runner, who holds the national record in 1,500m at 3:37.86s, believes that the longer race will hand him a better chance at the 2020 Olympics and hopes to even clinch what could be an unlikely and historical track medal for the nation.
“At Rio Olympics, US runner Matthew Centrowitz won the gold with a timing of 3:50.00s. So, 1,500 is an event where anything is possible. I have to keep believing,” said Jinson.
“From now on, Jinson will be concentrating on a specialised training regime for 1,500m which will not hamper his performance at the 800m competitions for the time being. I feel 1,500m is also a better medal prospect for Jinson at the Olympics,” said Kunhi.
“If he can reprise his performance from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a medal could be on the offing at the Worlds in Doha,” he added.
After a successful outing in Jakarta, Jinson will now make his way to Ostrava in the Czech Republic on Thursday for the IAAF Continental Cup, where he will compete in the 800m race for Team Asia Pacific. The field there includes 2012 London silver medallist Nijel Amos and 2016 Rio bronze medallist Clayton Murphy, who will represent Africa and Americas respectively.
“The competition will be very high there, but hopefully I can do my best, win a medal and continue the good momentum,” remarked Jinson.