Reeling under power cut, javelin thrower Rohit’s village glued to mobile phone to catch his exploits

Written by Andrew Amsan

Updated: July 23, 2022 1:21:59 am

India's Rohit Yadav in action during qualifying. (Reuters)

While javelin thrower Rohit Yadav was competing in the qualification rounds at the World Championships in Eugene, his family and folks back in Dabhiya village of Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur district were praying that the battery in his father’s smartphone lasts till the final results came in.

The battery didn’t let them down, and neither did Rohit who managed a best throw of 80.42m to join compatriot Neeraj Chopra in the final. It’s been three days since the power at Rohit’s village, about 45km from the main town, went off after a thunderstorm. But the Yadavs are now used to frequent power cuts.

To ensure they didn’t miss Rohit in action, father Sabhajeet went to the town a day before to get his mobile charged from an inverter and also bought a subscription for the streaming app for the Worlds.

“Our television is out of order due to frequent power fluctuations and watching on mobile was the only option. Some boys in the village told me that I would need to buy an application subscription to watch it. I gave Rs 300 to a shopkeeper and he did the rest. I don’t even know how to open the application,” says 65-year-old Sabhajeet.

Rohit Yadav’s 80.42m making Indian Javelin 3/3 in final.
First time two Indians in a world championship final
Well done @RohitJavelin

— Indian Javelin (@IndianJavelin) July 22, 2022

Not just Rohit’s family but a handful of village folk too were keenly interested in following the proceedings in Eugene. Rohit’s neighbours started trickling in as early as 5 am to watch the qualification round.

“There were around 20 villagers who had joined us to watch the qualification round,” says Sabhajeet.

Rohit was introduced to the sport when he was around 14 by his father, who is still an active long-distance runner. He bagged a gold at the Bengaluru TCS 10k run in the 65-69 age category in May this year.

“I have taken part in all kinds of sports and always had a special spot for javelin. I wanted him to give it a shot and I am so happy that today he’s representing India at the world level. I went to Jaunpur market to get him his first bamboo javelin,” Sabhajeet proudly recalls. Rohit’s elder brother Rahul and younger sibling Rohan are also javelin throwers.

However, as soon as Rohit started to progress in the sport, bamboo javelins became redundant and those made of fibre were beyond their purchasing power. The youngster had to manage with low-quality aluminium javelins for quite some time until Sabhajeet’s friend volunteered to fund an imported javelin.

“My friend Bhaskar Desai, who I have met during my marathons, offered to buy us an imported javelin. It cost him around Rs 60,000 in 2016. He didn’t take a single penny from us,” says Sabhajeet.

Rohit Yadav ( second from right) at his village in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

Dope taint

With the right equipment in hand, Rohit didn’t look back as he topped a series of junior-level meets. He came to the limelight after winning a gold in 2016 and backed his credentials with a Youth Championship silver medal in Bangkok the following year.

But just as he was climbing the ladders came a big setback. In 2017, he failed a dope test that cost him the Youth medal.

Rohit has maintained he’s innocent and claims his food was spiked. “I never took any supplements or banned substances. A lot of people were jealous of my progress and someone must have spiked my food or drink,” Rohit had told this paper after winning the U-18 nationals back in 2017. He also had to undergo an age-verification test, which he cleared just hours after his national finals.

Rohit’s throwing style at the nationals caught the eye of German biomechanics coach Klaus Bartonietz, who is now coaching Chopra. Rohit did not have much formal coaching till then and learnt most of his drills from YouTube.

“So you are the Julius Yego (Rio Olympics silver and 2015 Worlds gold medallist who learnt his trade by watching YouTube videos) of India? But your technique is better than him,” Klaus had told the youngster back then. Ironically, Yego could not make it to the finals at this edition of the Worlds.

Rohit was soon roped into the camp where he trained under former national coach Uwe Hohn along with Chopra and even attended camps with a national team overseas. Although quite some distance from being a world-beater, he is one of the most consistent throwers on the domestic circuit. At the inter-state meet in June, the final selection Meet for the CWG, he managed to pull off four 80m-plus throws (82.45,80.49,82.54, 82.07). On Sunday, a finish close to the top five would be a decent outing for the 21-year-old.

Rohit Yadav with father Shabajeet and brother Rohan.

As for the Yadav household, they are hoping the power gets restored in time for the final on Sunday. Else, Sabhajeet would have to make another visit to the town to recharge the batteries. But is the screen big enough for a 20-plus viewership?

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“Iss se pehle toh rangeen phone bhi nahi tha mere pass (Earlier I did not even have a colour screen (smartphone). I used a Nokia keypad phone until Rohit gifted me a ‘rangeen’ phone. He said ‘Papa, people will laugh if they see your old phone. Now I am learning to use it,” he says.

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