Finally, Johnson proves his mettle on the big stage

Finally, Johnson proves his mettle on the big stage

India’s Jinson Johnson celebrates his gold medal winning effort in the men’s 1500 metres. PTI

Posing next to the legendary Sriram Singh in the VIP area of the GBK Stadium on Thursday night, Jinson Johnson flashed his trademark smile. He could afford to, for a shining gold medal was adorning his neck.

This has been a year to remember for Johnson. Two national records of rare lustre had lit up his path to the Asian Games and he returns with another rare honour — the first Indian to win the 1500 metres in 56 years.

It was at this very same venue in 1962 that Mohinder Singh won the gold for India. Johnson was not aware of that fact but he was simply delighted that he had won a gold for team India, fulfilling his ambition.

“I was not sad after the 800 metres. Manjit deserved his gold medal, for he ran a good race and I couldn’t kick on in the last part. Today, I timed it well,” said the 27-year-old, who had won the silver in the two-lap race on Tuesday.

The tall Johnson had been knocking on the doors of international recognition for the last few years but a gold had eluded him. He was also improving his timings, especially in the 800 metres. The sign of things to come became clear at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast when he broke Bahadur Prasad’s 23-year-old mark in the 1500M with a 3:37.86 run.

Then came the big one. At Guwahati in June, he sank India’s oldest standing track record, Sriram Singh’s 800m mark of 1:45.77, with a 1:45.65. A big medal had to come his way and it did, on Thursday.

“I am really happy it came now, because we have to wait four more years for another Asian Games,” said the Armyman, who hails from Chakkittapara in Kerala’s Kozhikode district.

A silver in 2015 and a bronze in 2017 had been his collection from the 800 metres in the Asian Championships. Expectations were more from him and he had to step up in the 1500m.

“Everyone had expected me to win the gold in the 800m. I couldn’t do that. So I had to get the gold in the 1500. My last 80m was weak in the 800m. Today, I focused on the last part and won.”