2022 WORLD ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIP / ROHIT YADAV QUALIFIES FOR JAVELIN THROW FINAL

Rohit Yadav. This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page. No copyright infringement intended.

India’s Rohit Yadav has made it to the final of the javelin throw competition at the 2022 World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon, USA. In the Group B qualification round, he achieved a distance of 80.42m, sufficient to place eleventh in the list of 12 athletes from Groups A and B, eligible for the final.

In Group A, Neeraj Chopra, the country’s strongest athlete in the discipline, qualified for the final with an impressive throw of 88.39m. He placed second on the list of finalists headed by Anderson Peters of Grenada who managed 89.91m. As per media reports, the qualifying mark was 83.50m; in results published, four out of the 12 athletes making it to the final, had throws exceeding the qualifying mark. The best 12 throws in the qualifying round ranged from 80.03m to 89.91m.

Rohit, 21 (age as per data on the website of World Athletics), is the son of Sabhajeet Yadav, well-known amateur runner. A farmer from Dabhiya village in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, Sabhajeet has several podium-finishes at city marathons to his credit. “ We are so happy that Rohit has made it to the final. He will get a chance to compete with leading athletes,” Sabhajeet said when contacted.

Sabhajeet Yadav (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

“ We woke up at 4 AM to watch the event on television. All of us, my wife, my two other sons and several boys from the village have been here since morning. We are quite thrilled,” he said, adding Rohit’s trip to Oregon for the world championship will be a valuable experience. Rohit is scheduled to participate in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well.

The world of amateur running has played a role in Rohit’s ascent. Given income from farming is rarely steady and adequate, Sabhajeet participated in amateur marathons to augment his family’s resources. He won consistently in his age category and the prize money helped. During the annual Mumbai Marathon, he acquired a reputation for reaching the city by train, sleeping at the railway station, waking up in the morning, competing in the marathon and going back to his village, a place on the podium earned. The tough farmer was soon noticed by other amateur runners who rallied to his support. Foremost among them, was businessman, Bhasker Desai.

Rohan Yadav (Photo: courtesy Bhasker Desai)

Bhasker learnt of Rohit’s interest in the javelin throw, the promise he showed in the discipline and his training in Sabhajeet’s village with a home-made javelin. As Rohit moved up in performance and ranking, Bhasker funded the purchase of a top-notch, imported javelin for the young athlete to train with. “ This is a major high for me,’’ Bhasker said when asked of the athlete he supported reaching the world championship final. While he may have helped purchase a new javelin, Bhasker maintained that the credit for Rohit’s ascent should go to the athlete and his father. According to him, Sabhajeet has never wavered in his belief that Rohit would one day be at the Olympics. Equally important, Bhasker said, has been the role played by Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra. Rohit looks up to Neeraj as his mentor and the senior athlete’s presence has helped Rohit endure the competitive ambiance at major championships like the one currently on at Oregon, Bhasker said. In an audio message to Bhasker from the US after he qualified for the final, Rohit has said that notwithstanding the newness of figuring in such a big final, he will give his best.

What should interest, is that Rohit’s entry to the world championship final may be just the start of a longer story from Dabhiya. Rohit’s younger brother, Rohan, 16, has also taken to the javelin and, according to Bhasker, already touches distances beyond 72m. Spotted by the army as a promising talent, Rohan currently trains at their sports facility, Bhasker said.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)      

THE FIRST WORLD WAR ADVENTURES OF NARIMAN KARKARIA

For some reason, the day I visited him, a copy of this book in hand, my uncle began talking of Tintin and the near complete collection of Tintin’s adventures, he had helped compile in the family. I don’t know if it was triggered by the Tintin-esque cover of the book, which I had placed on the table. That or not, the digression to Tintin sat well for Nariman Karkaria’s memoir appealed much the same way – his is the story of a youngster, training to be a priest in Navsari, who in 1910, trades that existence for a shot at seeing the world and fighting in one of its biggest wars. It is adventure, honest writing and a progressively evolving view of the world; you sense the perceived manliness of being in the military but also the butchery and meaninglessness of war. The author’s capacity to state things honestly, as they appear to him, probably makes this book less appetizing for today’s politically correct lot. Sample this bit about Indian society, as much valid now as it must have been then: Was it an ordinary matter to reach London, the original vilayat for us Indians? I had grown up hearing so much about the place and its personalities that London seemed to be something out of this world. I was rather impatient to see the city. Who among us wouldn’t like to go to vilayat? The very mention of it leaves many of us salivating with expectation. When a man returns home from a trip to vilayat, he seems to be in seventh heaven and his mother struts around town with her nose in the air. Is it therefore strange that a simpleton like me was so excited? Its narrative free of overbearing judgement, this is a book for those who love a quick, engaging read. One that runs smooth (the original Gujarati text has been translated to English and cast in a very readable style), sticks close to its central objective of travelogue and observation of life and flies like an arrow. Towards the final chapters, a bit of fatigue and repetitiveness in perspective did set in but that was pardonable. Plus, two other factors came to mind. First, it amazed to hear the First World War and the trenches of France described through Indian eyes. Nariman Karkaria’s accounts in this regard are among the few narratives by Indian participants in World War I, discovered yet. Second, the whole adventure in a youngster casting off to Hong Kong without informing his parents and working his way from there via China, Siberia, Russia and Europe to England (counting mainly on the Parsi diaspora for support) and then eventually seeing action with the British army in France, West Asia and the Balkans is an absorbing story cast the old school way. Its appeal is timeless. At least, it was enough to make this fifty plus writer – life’s errors and regrets in tow – wish he was fifteen again and staring at a clean slate. But perhaps, what genuinely engaged me about a memoir from the early part of the twentieth century was something else. Compared to our times reduced to celebrating specialization, monetary success and social standing, Nariman Karkaria seemed all about discovering world and existence without the contemporary recourse to pursuing elite scholarship and bright, saleable future. He heeded the call of the universe and all it took him was resolve, fifty rupees and a steamer to Hong Kong. Further, in his writing style, there is no straining to justify his thoughts and actions; cast it in some politically correct paradigm. He states it, as it is, baggage-free. The First World War Adventures of Nariman Karkaria – try it. For me, it was an astonishing find. The book also reminded me of another account from a slightly later yet adjacent period – With Cyclists Around the World (written about earlier on this blog), which narrates the experience of a group of cyclists from Mumbai (then, Bombay), who cycled around the world during the period 1923 to 1927.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)