CHENNAI: On a day when Manpreet Kaur broke her own national record in the women’s shot put, the best action on Day 2 of the 61st national inter-state athletics championships came from two familiar sources: the men’s long jump and the javelin. Thanks to one generational athlete who has opened the door for others in the javelin and a couple of jumpers who seem to cross 8m — the gold standard — on regularity, both these competitions is appointment viewing.
Saturday was no different. Even as M Sreeshankar breached the 8m mark again to win with a jump of 8.23m, the javelin final, which happened at the same time, acted as a timely reminder of the talent pool in the country. Uttar Pradesh’s Rohit Yadav had set the stall out early doors with a throw of 82.45m in his first attempt. That status quo was shattered by Karnataka’s Manu DP with a throw of 84.35m in his third attempt (10th best this year). While Manu won gold, Rohit breached the 80m mark in four of his six throws — reflecting his consistency.
What’s more remarkable about Manu’s throw is that he seemingly surprised himself and his coach, Kashinath Naik, the first Indian to medal in this event at the Commonwealth Games (2010). “I knew he would throw above 82m this time but 84 plus... what can I say, ‘God is great,” he told reporters after watching his ward smash by his personal best by 2m. While this is perhaps the beginning of the next chapter in the story of the Karnataka lad, his javelin career had no right to take off — literally and otherwise — when it did in 2019. He was disregarded for being a touch too skinny. His strength, it was deemed, was lightweight for the event. What was worse was he was throwing 65m, not good even for an 18-year-old boy like Manu.
That was when Kashinath, who worked with all javelin A-listers to come out of India including Neeraj Chopra, took the teen under his wings. “People at the Army (they train at the Army Sports Institute in Pune) were asking why I was interested in taking a 65m thrower,” Kashinath remembered. “I liked his speed and his explosive style. I also wanted to train him because he’s from the South. There aren’t many javelin throwers from the South and I liked what I saw.”
He used his speed and explosive ability as a base to work on Manu’s upper body strength. The immediate plan of action was to build up his muscle mass. Manu was also asked to let go off masala while he added a healthy amount of peanut butter to his customised menu. Kashinath also put in place a timetable. When to sleep, when to train, when to eat and so on. True to form, on Friday night, Kashinath wrote down a timetable for Manu to follow on Saturday. “Come to the stadium at 5.30 pm, a warm-up at 6.15 pm and start off with a good opening throw (79m) to relieve pressure.” His 78.73m on the first throw was just short but it set him on his way.