As the world combats COVID-19 and its unprecedented fallouts, India's ace middle-distance runner Jinson Johnson too is finding his way through uncertain times; sweating it out in preparation for the qualification events for the Tokyo Olympics.
Early last year, the 30-year-old Army man was eagerly looking forward to returning to competition after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, but the season was disrupted by the cancellation/postponement of events due to the pandemic. To make matters worse, he tested positive for COVID-19 last month.
"It has been the best phase of my life, and the worst of my career. I was training at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in Bengaluru when the first lockdown was imposed. Then one of the best things in my life happened as I got married in September. During the second wave of COVID-19 infections, I tested positive for the disease. It threatened to derail my Olympic dreams and even my career. Thankfully, I recovered fast and I'm now slowly getting back to peak fitness by training at the high-altitude sports training centre in Ooty," says the 1500m specialist hailing from Chakkittapara in Kozhikode district.
Cooking to kill boredom
I was preparing for the Olympics qualifiers at the SAI centre in Bengaluru when the first lockdown was imposed. I was satisfied with my training, but life in the confinement was really tough. I was bored to death and was a bit worn out… the same people, the same place, the same rooms. One day while training I noticed some jackfruit trees on the campus. The lockdown had coincided with the jackfruit season and social media was filled with jackfruit dishes. The other Malayalees in the camp - race walker K T Irfaan, marathoner T Gopi and physical conditioner Aneesh - joined me and we started preparing several dishes with jackfruit. We also tried our hand at making jackfruit seed milkshake. Everything turned out to be deliciously successful. In fact, lockdown helped me brush my cooking skills.
My wife Lakshmi also hails from Chakkittapara. She is a doctor by profession. Our wedding was in September. We sought blessings from all our relatives, friends and wellwishers, but we could not invite all of them to the function as it was conducted in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.
In the meantime, I had gone to Thiruvananthapuram to receive an award instituted by the state government. All this time, I was taking every precaution to keep the coronavirus at bay. But I too fell victim to the disease during my stay at the SAI centre in Bengaluru. It was a big setback as far as my training was concerned. I had put on about 10 kilograms after marriage. I shed that extra flab and regained my shape through strenuous workouts.
I had decided to skip the Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships at Patiala and give my best at the inter-state athletics meet in Bengaluru. It was when I contracted the virus. I suffered from fatigue, headache, and body pain and was exhausted, both mentally and physically. It was absolutely challenging, but I tried to maintain a level of positivity through that difficult period. I was quarantined at the SAI Centre. Though I recovered fully within a fortnight, I developed post-COVID complications such as back pain. It had me fearing for my career. I thought 2020 was the worst year in my career as I could not attend a single competition in the year. I never knew 2021 could bring more heartbreaks!
Not ready to quit
I'm not ready to give up on my Olympic dreams. For the past one week, I have been undergoing training in Ooty. I believe my chances of making the cut for the Tokyo Olympics are not over yet. I'm confident of doing well at next month's inter-state meet and earning a berth for the Tokyo Olympics.