As javelin thrower Rohit Yadav competed in the World Championships qualifier in Eugene, his family and relatives in Dabhiya village in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh prayed for the battery of his father’s smartphone. lasts until the final results.
The battery didn’t let them down, nor did Rohit who shot a better throw at 80.42m to join fellow countryman Neeraj Chopra in the final. It has been three days since the power in the village of Rohit, about 45 km from the main town, was cut after a thunderstorm. But the Yadavs are now used to frequent power cuts.
To make sure they don’t miss Rohit in action, Father Sabhajeet drove into town the day before to have his cell phone charged from a power inverter and also bought a subscription to the streaming app for the Worlds.
“Our TV 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 have to buy an app subscription to watch it. I donated Rs 300 to a trader and he did the rest. I don’t even know how to open the app,” says Sabhajeet, 65.
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Not only Rohit’s family, but also a handful of villagers were keenly interested in following the proceedings in Eugene. Rohit’s neighbors began flocking as early as 5 a.m. to watch the qualifying round.
“There were around 20 villagers who joined us to watch the qualifying round,” Sabhajeet said.
Rohit was introduced to the sport around the age of 14 by his father, who is still an active distance runner. He won a gold medal in the Bengaluru TCS 10km race in the 65-69 age category in May this year.
“I practiced all kinds of sports and I always had a weakness for the javelin. I wanted him to try his luck and I am so happy that today he is representing India at world level. I went to Jaunpur market to buy him his first bamboo javelin,” Sabhajeet recalls proudly. Rohit’s older brother, Rahul, and younger brother, Rohan, are also javelin throwers.
However, as soon as Rohit began to progress in the sport, bamboo javelins became superfluous and fiber ones were beyond their purchasing power. The youngster had to make do with shoddy aluminum javelins for a while until Sabhajeet’s friend volunteered to fund an imported javelin.
“My friend Bhaskar Desai, whom I met during my marathons, offered to buy us an imported javelin. It cost him around 60,000 rupees in 2016. He didn’t take a penny from us,” says Sabhajeet.
With the right gear in hand, Rohit didn’t look back as he topped a string of junior-level competitions. He came into the limelight after winning a gold medal in 2016 and backed up his credentials with a silver at the Youth Championship in Bangkok the following year.
But just as he was climbing the ladders, he suffered a big setback. In 2017, he failed a doping test which cost him the youth medal.
Rohit maintained he was 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 had to steal my food or drink,” Rohit told this newspaper after winning the U-Nationals. 18 in 2017. He also had to undergo an age verification test, which he cleared just hours after his national final.
Rohit’s throwing style at nationals caught the eye of German biomechanics coach Klaus Bartonietz, who now coaches Chopra. Rohit didn’t have much formal coaching until then and learned most of his drills from YouTube.
“So you’re the Julius Yego (Rio Olympics silver medalist and 2015 Worlds gold medalist who learned his trade by watching YouTube videos) from India? But your technique is better than him” , Klaus had told the youngster at the time. Ironically, Yego could not qualify for the final of this edition of the Worlds.
Rohit was quickly roped into the camp where he trained under former national coach Uwe Hohn with Chopra and even participated in camps with a national team abroad. Although he is far from being a world beater, he is one of the most consistent pitchers on the national circuit. In June’s interstate meet, the final draft meet for the CWG, he had four throws over 80m (82.45, 80.49, 82.54, 82.07). A finish close to the top five on Sunday would be a decent outing for the 21-year-old.
As for the Yadav family, they hope power will be restored in time for Sunday’s final. If not, Sabhajeet would have to make another visit to town to recharge the batteries. But is the screen big enough for an audience of over 20?
“Iss se pehle toh rangeen phone bhi nahi tha mere pass (Before, I didn’t even have a color screen (smartphone). I was using a Nokia keypad phone until Rohit gave me a ‘rangeen phone ‘ He said ‘Dad, people will laugh if they see your old phone, I’m now learning how to use it,’ he said.