Daughter of security guard won the 100m hurdles gold and 200m silver in the Asia Athletics Championship in Bangkok
India's Jyothi Yarraji (centre) competes with Bahamas’ Devynne Charlton (left) and Jamaica's Megan Tapper (right) in the women's 100m hurdles at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on August 5, 2022. Pic/AFP
Jyothi Yarraji is one of the emerging superstars of Indian athletics, given her consistent performances in international meets during the last couple of years.
She won the 100m hurdles gold (the first Indian woman to do so) and 200m silver in the Asia Athletics Championship in Bangkok recently. But this sterling show came against all odds. Her father Surya Narayana, who is a security guard, was hospitalised for chest congestion and there was heavy rain on the day of the 100m hurdles event.
“It was raining very heavily during my main event (100m hurdles). Technically it was a difficult race. I had done 12.98s in the heats while I had my best timing of 12.82 recently. I could have had a better timing if there was no rain. Nevertheless, it is a dream come true to win gold in the Asian Championship. In fact, the rain also made me sick for the 200m the next day. But I was determined to win a medal and I could achieve a silver. It is my first big international medal after my win at the Asian Indoor meet, ’’ said the 23-year-old Visakhapatnam athlete.
Jyothi was also worried for her father who is in the hospital for the last 10 days. “It was a difficult time. Nothing has changed for me financially. My father continues to work as a security guard and we are struggling to make ends meet. Recently I got an offer from the Railways and hopefully it [job] will help my family,’’ said Jyothi, who was back in the National camp in Cuttack, on her return from Bangkok.
September’s Asian Games in China is her priority now. “I’m confident of a good show. I’m in good rhythm. I’m aware there will be a lot of competition in the Asian Games, particularly from the Chinese. But I’m not worried as the track will be the same for all,” she said.
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Jyothi, who was induced to athletics by her PE teacher Reddy at Port High School in Vizag and ran her first race when she was in Class 10. “Somehow Reddy sir saw some talent in me and asked me to take to athletics. I accepted the challenge though my parents never knew what sports was and its benefits. They were naïve and I promised that I would bring results within one year. I'm happy to fulfil my promise.’’
Selected for the Sports Hostel, she moved to Hyderabad to train under Nagapuri Ramesh at Gachibowli Stadium in 2016, Jyothi began to make a mark. “Till I joined Sports Hostel, I never wore spike shoes. It was a different challenge. Ramesh sir showed all the patience in the training sessions. I could see improvement in my timings and within one year I could win a gold in the Youth Nationals in Kerala,” she said.
Coach Ramesh is all praise for Jyothi: “She is a hard working athlete. Her hardships have not come in her way. She is an epitome of energy.’’
Jyothi has since moved to the National camp and trains under British coach James Hillier. “He has made me a confident athlete. It is very difficult to explain how he has changed my style or my run. I’m more mentally strong now. I’m able to improve my timings in every meet,” Jyothi remarked.
With the Paris Olympics scheduled to be held next year, Jyothi is confident of qualifying for the 2024 Games. “I had qualified for the World Championships. However, I need that European exposure so that I can run in a strong competition to improve my timing. I desperately need hurdles for my training sessions. I can’t afford to purchase them as each hurdle costs Rs 1,500 and they may break at times. I need a good number of form hurdles and hopefully some good Samaritan will come forward to help in this aspect. In fact, my father’s health is also a bit of concern. I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she signed off.