Charles Borromeo is a name which might not be familiar to many. He was the last Indian male to compete in the 800m event at the Olympics. It is after a gap of 32 years that India will be represented in the men’s 800m, when Jinson Johnson takes the field at Rio.
Born on March 15, 1991, Johnson grew up in Chakkittapara village in Kerala’s Kozhikode district. He was into sports from an early age and it was at the district athletics championship that he caught the attention of Peter Karimbanakuzhy, who was then coach at the Chakkittapara village sports academy.
Currently, a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Indian army, Johnson first hit the headlines when he won gold in 800m at the National Junior Sports Championship at Vijayawada in 2007 and another gold in 1500m at the National School Meet, Kolkata later that year.
Johnson qualified for Rio in July 2016 at the Indian Grand Prix in Bengaluru where he won gold by recording the third-fastest time ever by an Indian in 800m.
His coach in the army Army Sports Institute in Pune, Mohammad Kunji in 2015 told Indian Express, “Among those from that batch, I continue to coach only Johnson. There were others who were physically as capable as him but his determination and focus makes him stand apart. He is not someone who will give excuses. In the army he was promoted from sepoy to subedar to JCO. He is an athlete with a bright future.”
In his trophy cabinet, Johnson has three Asian Grand Prix golds- all of them in the 2015 event, and a silver in the Asian Athletics Championship also in 2015.
No Indian athlete has gone past the second round at the 800m event since the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Johnson will be hoping to break that record and also progress further in the competition.