81-year-old MJ Jacob, ex-MLA from Kerala, wins two bronze medals at World Masters Athletics

Written by Narayanan S
| Kochi |

Updated: July 12, 2022 10:41:26 am

Already a winner at multiple national and Asian masters athletics championships, Jacob bagged bronze in two hurdles — 200m and 80m — in World Masters Athletics Championship 2022 that ended in Tampere, Finland, on July 10.

In 2006, CPI (M) leader MJ Jacob had just defeated four-time MLA TM Jacob at the Piravom constituency in the Kerala Legislative Assembly polls. The new MLA was invited by his old friends at Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) for the inauguration of an athletics meet at Maharajas College in Ernakulam. A former college champion in track and field, Jacob went beyond the routine flag-off. Though he stuttered a bit in the 100m, it rekindled his love for athletics. It set him on a pursuit of success on the world stage, which he has finally achieved 16 years later, at the age of 81.

Already a winner at multiple national and Asian masters athletics championships, Jacob bagged bronze in two hurdles — 200m and 80m — in World Masters Athletics Championship 2022 that ended in Tampere, Finland, on July 10. For the uninitiated, athletes above the age of 35 can compete in masters championships. Jacob won medals in the 80-plus category.

“It is the first time I’m winning a medal at Worlds in an individual event. I don’t know whether it’s a big achievement. But definitely, it’s satisfying,” Jacob told indianexpress.com from Finland after the win.

This was the fourth World Masters that Jacob was competing in, following the editions in France (2015), Australia (2016) and Spain (2018). He had also taken part in Asian Masters in Japan (2014), Singapore (2016), China (2017) and Malaysia (2012).

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Jacob, who had won in the national meet held in Chennai recently, was supposed to compete in long jump also in Finland. However, an intermuscular fat deposit robbed him of explosive strength in his legs. So he skipped the horizontal jump event.

Regular exercise

Time for oneself is a luxury for most politicians in Kerala but Jacob still manages to practice. “I wake up early in the morning, around 4 am, and run for at least 4 km. Some days I do yoga. Before I get busy with other assignments in the morning, I make sure that I complete my physical activities. Even if it is raining, I won’t miss my morning run. It is not some special workout that I do but I do these things every day to make myself ready for competitions,” said Jacob, who occasionally practises at the Manimalakunnu Government College Stadium in Piravom, which he built using his MLA fund.

A controlled diet is another key to his success. “When you are a politician, you are likely to be invited to some events like weddings almost every day. I try my best to attend all these but I don’t indulge too much when it comes to the delicacies that these places have to offer,” said Jacob.

The beginning

Jacob studied at St John’s School in Thirumarady panchayat, the alma mater of former President KR Narayanan, and excelled in sports back then too. “I was a champion in athletics events in the 1950s at the school. Then I went to Union Christian (UC) College in Aluva, where also I won many events at university meets. In fact, I had set a university record in 400m hurdles which remained unbroken for many years,” said Jacob.

It was an unfortunate accident that stopped Jacob’s exploits on the track when he was young. He was preparing to take part in the famous Kakkoor Kalavayal (bull race) festival along with his father Joseph, who was a traditional healer. While Jacob was running beside the bullock cart, it accidentally ran over his foot, causing a major injury. Sports took a backseat and politics took over from then on.

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“I was the president of Thirumarady gram panchayat twice. It was during my tenure that Thirumarady won the award for the best panchayat in the state,” said Jacob, who contested assembly polls three more times unsuccessfully from Piravom after his 2006-11 stint as MLA, including one bypoll in 2012.

Looking ahead

Jacob says he has the full backing of his family to keep going. “My wife Thankamma, a retired Chemistry teacher, and my son and daughter fully support me. They don’t ask me to stay home fearing that I would be injured playing sports at this age. Accidents can happen at any time. But I want to carry as long as my body and my mind permit me to,” he said.

Clearly, he is not ready to rest on his laurels. “When you compete with Europeans, you know you still have a lot to improve. I want to get better and turn this bronze into gold on the world stage one day,” said Jacob.

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