When Jyothi Yarraji first tried the sprint hurdles seven years ago, shortly after joining the Hyderabad SAI, she used to crash into the barriers frequently. The tall girl was then asked to try the long jump, high jump and the javelin throw but she did not seem to be good at them too.
Jyothi is now India’s finest 100m hurdler ever and now, with her Asian gold in Bangkok on Thursday, she is the country’s first Continental champion in the event. India’s best at the Asians earlier had been the bronze medals won by Anuradha Biswal (in 2000) and J. Hemasree (2013).
But though she is the Asian leader in the hurdles this season with her 12.84s (personal best 12.82s, 2022), a medal was not on her mind as she lined up for the final.
“I wanted to do a personal best... I only thought about the time. Had I thought of a medal that would have put pressure on me,” said the 23-year-old from Visakhapatnam after her fine victory.
“I felt this would be my day and I decided to focus on the day... but I slipped a bit on the seventh hurdle. The rain was bad luck,” said Jyothi, the only Indian to go below 13s in the event. “My next goal will be to try for 12.7s.”
Jyothi has been training at the Reliance Foundation under coach James Hillier for the last couple of years and her victory was the foundation’s first Asian title.
“You have made the country proud and stand tall as an inspiration to all aspiring athletes and young girls who dream of making it big in sports,” said Nita Ambani, the founder chairperson of the Reliance Foundation.