One is a late bloomer who switched to javelin from volleyball due to his “short” stature and the other was a fast-bowler before his initiation into throwing “bamboo spears” by his school teacher. Having eventually established themselves as India’s top javelin throwers, Kishore Jena and DP Manu now have one thing in common: to emulate Olympic and world champion Neeraj Chopra. Jena and Manu created Indian athletics history along with Chopra as the three participants, in a first, finished in the top six in the World Championships.
Jena (84.77m) finished fifth, while Mani (84.14m) ended sixth in Sunday’s men’s javelin final in Budapest, which Chopra won.
Born to a paddy farmer’s family at Kothasahi village at Brahmagiri area of Puri district in Odisha, Jena, 27, was initially a volleyball player but he had to leave it because of his short height of 5 feet 8 inches. He needed a certificate to get admission to a sports hostel in Bhubaneswar.
When he did not get that certificate, he shifted to javelin.
In 2015, he moved to a sports hostel in Bhubaneswar and began training under a local coach. He was around 20, which is quite late to begin training under a professional coach in any sport. Later, he shifted base to Bhopal and took part in a national competition in 2017.
Jena joined Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) in 2016 and competed in All India police meets also. But till 2020, he was struggling, failing to throw 70m consistently.
But joining the national camp in Patiala changed everything as he came under Samarjeet Singh Malhi.
“He was in Bhopal and then joined national camp in Patiala in 2021. He was not beng able to throw 75m regularly. But I changed his technique and with hard work and dedication, he improved a lot and now he is nearing 85m,” Malhi told PTI from Patiala.
But Malhi had to work slowly as Jena was already 25 then.
“I changed him from 14 steps to 16, 18 and then to 20 (in runway). Now he is throwing at 23 steps. It was difficult, I had to do slowly with him,” Malhi said.
Manu, a coffee grower farmer’s son at Belur village in Hassan district of Karnataka, played cricket as a fast-bowler and also enjoyed volleyball in his school days. But one day, his PET teacher told him to try javelin throw.
However, as the school did not have proper javelin, Manu began with a spear made of bamboo.
“He was from a poor background and in South India there are no proper javelin coach and facilities. So, he began with javelin made of bamboo,” Manu’s coach Kashinath Naik said from Pune.
“I saw him at the Khelo India Youth Games in 2019. He was throwing just around 65m and he was underweight also at that time. But I took him under my wings and brought him at the Army Sports Institute (Pune).” Manu was 19 but had already participated in national youth and U-20 events for two years.
His height, shoulder length and reach impressed Naik, himself a 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist. But he was underweight.
“His shoulder length and reach was around 2-2.5cm more than the average. His height was 1.87m and now he is 1.87m.
“His weight was 70kg when he came to me. We gave him proper diet at the ASI and he is now 86kg. Within three months he improved his throw from around 65m to 75m,” Naik recalled.
Naik said Manu could have won a medal in Budapest if he had taken his last throw properly.
“He released the spear more than two metres behind the line. He could have reached 87m had he had not left so much distance behind. But this is his first World Championships final. He will do better in future.” Manu’s final throw was recorded at 84.14m and Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch took the bronze with 86.67m.
Malhi, on the other hand, said Jena still needs improvement in blocking and transfer of power before releasing the spear.
“Our target was 85.50m which is the Paris Olympics qualification but could not achieve it. Nonetheless, I am satisfied with his performance, doing his personal best in his maiden World Championships.
“There is pressure in a big stage and he has tackled it very well. We need improvement in some areas and we will work on them. We will try to qualify for Olympics in Asian Games.” Jena, whose visa was first rejected by the Hungarian embassy in New Delhi before being cleared, will take part in the Asian Games in javelin throw, along with Chopra.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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