CHENNAI: For an 18-year-old, Rohit Yadav has already had quite some drama in his life. After making waves in the U-16 category, the javelin thrower was tipped to be the next big thing in Indian athletics. In May 2017, he bagged silver at Youth Asian Athletics Championships. But what followed was least expected. Bad news arrived on the final day of the event. Rohit’s A sample — one that was taken during National Youth Championships a month ago — tested positive for a banned substance: stanozolol. He was suspended for one year.
Those were his darkest days. But almost a year later, the athlete from Jaunpur district (Uttar Pradesh) saw light at the end of the tunnel. With a throw of 81.73m, he bagged the U-18 gold at National Javelin Thrown Open Championships. But his achievements in the preliminary round on Monday were more notable. With 81.75m, Rohit shattered the junior national record. “It was a good throw. The wind was good. That helped me. I did not expect to throw at this level,” Rohit told this newspaper from Sonepat. Though he is back in the limelight, Rohit has faced a lot of struggles on his road to recovery. Studies were never an option for him.
“I completed my 12th board exams from Janta Inter College School. I’m waiting for results. But what’s the point of studies? Everybody does it. I don’t really care about it.” Rohit’s father Sabhajeet Yadav, a marathon-runner from Mumbai, had all his hopes pinned on his second son. His mother Pushpa is a housewife. After the birth of his younger brother, Sabhajeet took up farming to make ends meet. That also took a toll on Rohit’s training. The ban occurred when he was at a training camp in Allahabad. So he shifted base to his village and trained there. With no money to afford a personal coach, his future looked bleak. Till last March, he did not even have a competition-standard javelin. That’s when Sabhajeet’s time as an athlete came in handy.
With the help of Bhasker Desai — a Mumbai-based businessman and amateur runner — the father-son approached Amentum, a sports-consultancy firm that helps athletes like Rohit. “They helped me a lot when all doors were shut. Michael Musselmann, a coach from Peru, was part of the company. He helped me a lot when I was not able to compete,” reminisced Rohit. Rohit used to send videos of himself from the village to Musselmann via WhatsApp to get guidance. On the road to redemption, Rohit said that brief exchanges with Neeraj Chopra helped him a lot. Though he took up the sport in 2013, it was Neeraj’s U-20 World Athletics Championships exploits in 2016 that inspired him.
“Neeraj bhai is very approachable. He keeps advising me to work hard and not worry about anything else.” Now, Rohit can’t wait to join Neeraj at the national camp. “Coach Uwe Hohn was there when I broke the record. He came and spoke to me, and took my number. He has asked me to join the camp.”