World Athletics: Who are javelin finalists DP Manu and Kishore Jena?
It will be a refreshing change to see three Indian throwers, instead of just the irrepressible Neeraj Chopra, in the finals on Sunday
Come Sunday evening at Budapest, India’s spearman Neeraj Chopra will have company in the finals of his event at the World Athletics. DP Manu and Kishore Jena will comprise a surprise trio of Indians in the finals of the gruelling field event – a number which could have been four but for an injury to Rohit Yadav.
Call it ‘The Neeraj effect’ or what you will, but the rise of these two youngsters from different parts of the country shows that the sport is catching on – and Chopra’s exploits on the global stage has certainly injected him with a big dose of self belief. Man, 23, hails from the Hassan district of Karnataka while Jena, now 27, is from Puri district of Odisha.
The unheralded duo will be a part of 12-member field in the final, an extraordinary feat from a 30-plus Indian contingent at the Worlds so far. The event in effect could well be an unique Indo-Pak duel for the gold between Neeraj, who has carved a niche for himself in top echelons of the sport over last two years since Tokyo Olympics (being a world No.1 in May) and Arshad Nadeem – the presence of three throwers will certainly give the motley Indian presence a bit more to cheer about.
Manu, who trained under Kashinath Naik, shot himself into national reckoning last year when he threw a personal best of 84.35m to win the Inter-State championships in Chennai. What’s more, in a field sans Chopra, who opted out from 2022 Commonwealth Games due to a niggle, Manu showed there were more to India’s javelin challenge than the star when he clinched the silver medal there against a strong competition.
For Jena, the current year had seen him grow from an also-ran to one of the finest throwers in the country. Only in June, he won a silver at the nationals in Bhubaneswar but on July 30, he threw a personal best of 84.38 metres in Diyagama, Sri Lanka – forcing his way into a berth in the Indian party to Budapest.
In the qualifiers at the Worlds on Friday, Manu landed his best throw of 81.31 in his second attempt which won him the sixth place. Jena’s best effort was 80.55 in his first try to put him in the ninth spot. There is, of course, a yawning gap between them and their illustrious compatriot Chopra who sauntered into the final with his first attempt of 88.77 metres – but it’s heartening to see the bench strength of India in the event taking shape.
Nadeem, who finished an agonising fourth in Tokyo where Chopra stole the limelight, had meanwhile gone from strength to strength in the last two years and was the gold medallist at the last Commonwealth Games with a superlative attempt of 90.18m. He made the cut in the Worlds qualifiers from Group B with his season’s best of 86.79m.
The in-form javelin duo from other sides of the border, both of whom qualified for Paris Olympics in the bargain, are in line for top honours despite likely strong challenges from Czech Jakub Vadlejch and German Julian Weber.