With one throw Kishore Jena won silver medal, Olympics berth and national recognition

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For a few minutes on Thursday, the unthinkable happened: Neeraj Chopra outlasted another Indian thrower: Kishore Kumar Jena, India’s #2 thrower and today the Asian Games silver medalist.

Kishore’s throw of 86.77m in his third attempt took him into the javelin final, 2.28m ahead of Neeraj at that stage. It lasted just one throw, as Neeraj scored 88.88 in his next throw and normal service resumed.

But the teenager’s throw, a personal best, earned him silver and meant he qualified for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris. It also did one more thing: by broadcasting the event live in India, it brought Kishore (27) firmly into the national consciousness.

Kishore realized the enormity of what had happened; He smiled as wide as he could and was quickly engulfed in a bear hug from Neeraj. This spurred him on to his game, and his fourth throw was even better, at 87.54m. It was the second best throw by an Indian and the sixth best throw by an Asian in the history of athletics. Neeraj ran up to the teenager, his face beaming with pride and gave him a friendly pat on the muscular shoulder.

It’s a far cry from his last top-level appearance, the World Championships in Budapest in late August (which was also his first major international event). Kishore finished a creditable fifth place but his efforts were perhaps understandably overshadowed by Neeraj’s gold.

Kishore’s relatively low profile stems in part from his life story. She was also a volleyball player and switched to javelin proper in 2019, when she was around 22 years old. In 2021, he caught the attention of talent scouts when he threw 76.41 in the Odisha State Championship and 74.26 meters in the National Open javelin competition.

He was then included in the national camp at the Sports Authority of India center in Patiala and his career took off. The teenager was 24; For context, Neeraj was 23 years old when he became the Olympic champion.

Training under former Asian Athletics Championship bronze medalist Samarjeet Singh Malhi, Jenna took a hard line, even stopping to visit her family near Puri, Odisha for three years.

It paid off when he crossed the 80m mark earlier this year. Malhi worked on Kishore’s hand speed and angle of attack. And the teenager’s faith in his coach was the defining factor. “He’s made all the changes I’ve suggested and he’s never once talked back or doubted what I’ve said,” Malhi told ESPN. “His performance these days is a result of that. He didn’t doubt it for a minute.”

Kishore’s family also put all their trust in Malhi. “He is not just a coach to me, he is a family to me. My family also respects him a lot and my mother keeps telling me ‘listen to what the coach says and don’t disobey him’ (laughs),” Kishore said. ESPN after the World Championships.

Kishore is still not at home and, while talking to this reporter, admitted that at times he “felt like leaving Patiala and going home to eat a plate full of dal and rice.” Of course he has bigger responsibilities. The youngest of seven siblings, Kishore has six sisters. “I have a responsibility to make sure my family is well looked after,” he said.

The teenager’s father met with an accident in 2018 and has been largely confined to his home since then. As income dried up, the family had to sell some of their ancestral land to make ends meet. A teenager’s biggest goal is to see his family settle down. “I don’t have any wants in life right now, I just want my family to be happy and debt free. If there’s any money left after paying off all the debts, I’ll look into buying myself something. “But that’s not my priority,” he said.

“Here [sports] All I have is, I can’t do anything else and so I want to give it my best,” he would add.

He was true to his word. Finished fifth at the World Championships. Going toe-to-toe with Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra at the Asian Games. India’s second best bowler of all time. A huge new personal best. A venue for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Silver medal in Asian Games.

And he’s just getting started.

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