Rusty Asian Games 1500m champion Jinson Johnson faces uphill task as he gears up for 2022 season

Jinson Johnson (3rd from L) in action at the 2018 Commonwealth Games
Jinson Johnson (3rd from L) in action at the 2018 Commonwealth Games
Navneet Singh

India’s 2018 Jakarta Asian Games 1500 meter champion Jinson Johnson has spent nearly the last two seasons in seclusion due to injury and the pandemic-induced lockdown.

With the 2022 domestic competition season four months away, Army’s 30-year-old middle-distance runner from Kerala is getting back in shape to retain top spot in the 1500m event.

Since he wasn’t among the lead runners in the 2020 or 2021 competitive season, his name isn’t among the probables for the national camp. So Johnson is training on his own at Army’s altitude training center in Ooty, Tamil Nadu.

The Army’s international runner says he has started normal training and should be the one to watch next season.

“I have started my normal practice here in Ooty," Jinson told Sportskeeda over the phone from Ooty. "My main goal is to achieve good results in the 2022 season. I hope to be super fit next year."

The domestic season will resume in March-April while the first major competition of the year will be the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in July. The Asian Games is also scheduled for September in China.

Four years ago, the middle distance runner had a good run. He broke a four-decade-old 800m national record in a domestic meet and finished a creditable fifth in the 1500m race at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia. Johnson also holds a 1500m national record. He capped the 2018 season with a brilliant finish to win gold (1500m) and silver (800m) at the Jakarta Asian Games.

Jinson Johnson's struggles started after 2019

Jinson Johnson celebrates winning a medal at the 2018 Asian Games
Jinson Johnson celebrates winning a medal at the 2018 Asian Games

Much of the 2019 season went on the expected lines until his performance plummeted and he faded out.

The Army’s runner almost came within striking distance of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games in September 2019. That year he clocked 3:35.24 seconds, narrowly falling short of the Olympic qualifying time of 3:35 seconds.

Thereafter, Johnson's performance plummeted at the 2019 Doha World Championships. He appeared jaded at the World Military Games held in China the same year in October.

Worse yet, an Achilles heel injury in November during a training session in Colorado Springs, USA, took a long time to recover.

Johnson didn’t enjoy 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the pandemic-induced lockdown and suffered a bout of the COVID-19 virus earlier this year in April.

After his rehabilitation and recovery from the Achilles heel injury, escalating COVID-19 cases in early 2020 halted sports activities in India. Johnson thus missed vital training like several other athletes.

The 2021 season also didn’t go on as expected for him. A bout of COVID-19 virus sent him off the track earlier this year in April. His hopes of returning to track were all but over.

But all that's in the past now. Johnson is back on track, but the road ahead is steep. Since he isn’t in the national camp, he will have to manage his practice as well as recovery sessions on his own.

“In the national camp you have an advantage of a masseur, physio and group training," he explained. "When you are training on your own, you have to be smart enough to manage things, Otherwise, it will be a challenging task to achieve a good result."

Pushing his limits in practice and staying injury free will hold the key to success for Johnson next year. The senior Federation Cup athletics meet in March/April will be his first major test of fitness.

“The Federation Cup will be a good platform to test my fitness," said the Army runner of his future plans. "The main goal, though, will be to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham."

The Asian Games in September will be his second goal of the 2022 season.

“I will not rush but plan to move forward step by step,” said Johnson.

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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