Late bloomer Kishore Jena and former fast bowler DP Manu rise in the shadow of Neeraj Chopra | Athletics News

One is a late bloomer who switched from volleyball to javelin throwing due to his “small” stature, and the other was a fast bowler before being introduced to “bamboo javelin” throwing by his school teacher. Kishore Jena and DP Manu have finally established themselves as India's best javelin throwers and now have one thing in common: they want to emulate Olympic and world champion Neeraj Chopra. Jena and Manu, along with Chopra, wrote Indian athletics history as the three competitors finished in the top six at the World Championships for the first time.

Jena (84.77m) finished fifth while Mani (84.14m) finished sixth in Sunday's men's javelin final in Budapest, which Chopra won.

Born to a rice farming family in the village of Kothasahi in the Brahmagiri area of ​​Puri District, Odisha, Jena, 27, was originally a volleyball player but had to give it up due to his short 5ft 8in height. He needed a certificate to be admitted to a sports hostel in Bhubaneswar.

When he did not receive this certificate, he switched to javelin throwing.

In 2015 he moved to a sports home in Bhubaneswar and started training under a local coach. He was about 20 years old, which is pretty late in any sport to start training under a professional coach. He later moved his base to Bhopal and competed in a national competition in 2017.

Jena joined the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) in 2016 and also attended All India Police Meetings. But by 2020 he was struggling, failing to consistently throw 70m.

But joining the national camp in Patiala changed everything when he came under Samarjeet Singh Malhi.

“He was in Bhopal and then joined the national camp in Patiala in 2021. He was unable to throw 75 m regularly. But I changed his technique and with hard work and dedication he improved a lot and now he is approaching 85m,” Malhi told PTI from Patiala.

But Malhi had to work slowly, because Jena was already 25 at the time.

“I switched him from 14 steps to 16, 18 and then 20 (on the catwalk). Now he throws with 23 steps. It was difficult, I had to go slowly with him,” said Malhi.

Manu, the son of a coffee farmer in Belur Village, Hassan District, Karnataka, was a fast bowler of cricket and also enjoyed playing volleyball in his school days. But one day his physical education teacher asked him to try javelin throwing.

However, since the school did not have a real spear, Manu started with a spear made of bamboo.

“He came from a poor background and there are no proper javelin coaches or facilities in southern India. So he started with bamboo javelin throw,” said Manu's coach Kashinath Naik from Pune.

“I saw him at Khelo India Youth Games in 2019. He only threw about 65 m and was also underweight at the time. But I took him under my wing and brought him to the Army Sports Institute (Pune).” Manu was 19 but had been competing in national youth and U-20 events for two years.

His height, shoulder length and reach impressed Naik, who was himself a bronze medalist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. But he was underweight.

“His shoulder length and reach was about an inch to an inch longer than average. His height was 1.87 m and now he is 1.87 m tall.

“His weight was 70 kg when he came to me. We put him on the right diet at ASI and he now weighs 86kg. Within three months he improved his throw from about 65 m to 75 m,” Naik recalls.

Naik said Manu could have won a medal in Budapest if he had executed his last throw correctly.

“He released the javelin more than two meters from the finish line. He could have reached 87m if he hadn't left so much of a gap. But this is his first World Championship final. He will do better in the future.” Manu's last throw was recorded as 84.14m and Czech Jakub Vadlejch took bronze with 86.67m.

Malhi, on the other hand, said Jena still needs improvements in blocking and power transmission before releasing the javelin.

“Our goal was 85.50m, which is qualifying for the Paris Olympics, but we couldn't reach it. Nonetheless, I am pleased with his performance and achieved his personal best at his first World Championship.”

“There is pressure on a big stage and he handled it very well. In some areas we need to improve and we will work on that. We will try to qualify for the Olympics at the Asian Games.” Jena, whose visa was first rejected and then approved by the Hungarian Embassy in New Delhi, will compete in the Asian Javelin with Chopra.

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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