After becoming the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games 1500m champion, Jinson Johnson couldn't sustain his good form. A spate of injuries and COVID-19 pandemic spoiled his chances of making the cut for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, held in Japan in 2021.
On Sunday, at the fifth leg of the Indian Grand Prix in Chandigarh, the 32-year-old was excited to have posted a season-best time of 3:39.32 seconds in the 1500m.
“On a comeback trail, a good performance ahead of the Hangzhou Asian Games at the newly constructed eight-lane, 400m track will certainly add to Johnson confidence,” Kalyan Chaudhuri, national athletics coach said.
Johnson too was elated, saying IGP was a good chance for him to test his skills.
"The track was fast. The weather was good. I didn’t let the opportunity slip from my hand. I pushed hard in the last lap to dip below 3:40 seconds,” the Olympian said.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI), apart from Johnson, has also selected Ajay Kumar Saroj to compete in the 1500m race at the Asian Games 2023, starting September 23. The athletics competition will commence on September 29.
Both the athletes have cleared the Hangzhou Asian Games qualification mark of 3:47.84 seconds set by the AFI during a domestic meeting in Bhubaneswar in June. Johnson clocked 3:42.77, while Saroj's time was 3:42.96 secs.
Saroj, however, improved his time to 3:38.24 seconds at the just concluded 2023 Budapest World Athletics Championships.
Johnson’s personal best of 3:35.24, a national record, was clocked in 2019 in Berlin.
The 2016 Rio Olympian said he was happy to have regained his lost form.
“The Asian Games in China will be challenging but I’m mentally and physically prepared to tackle my rivals,” he added. “The 1500m race is a very tactical event. Even the fastest runner in the field could be out of the medal tally.”
He started the 2023 season with an Indian Grand Prix leg in March in Kerala and step by step, moved forward. His big moment came at the National Interstate Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar in June. He won the gold medal with a timing of 3:42.77 and sealed a berth for the Hangzhou Asian Games.
At the 2018 Asian Games, Kerala's star athlete won silver in 800m. In the upcoming Asian Games in China, he has only qualified in the 1500m.
“I’m happy to have made a comeback after missing the 2021 season due to injuries,” he added.
The fifth leg of the IGP is the last domestic competition for elite Indian athletes to polish their skills before boarding a flight to China.