first_imgThe men’s 400m hurdles race at the Asian Games in Guangzhou was supposed to be a straightforward fight between Japan’s Kenji Narisako and Naohiro Kawakita. India’s Joseph Abraham stood no chance of a podium finish, let alone gold.Critics had written off the 29-year-old from Kottayam, Kerala, saying that he was past his prime and winning a medal at a highly competitive event like the Asian Games was beyond him. But Abraham, one of the senior-most members in the Indian athletics contingent, pipped both favourites to finish with gold.While everyone has been busy congratulating Abraham on his feat, he confessed to MAIL TODAY on Monday that after the disappointment at the Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG), winning the gold and proving to himself that he still was good enough to compete at the international level was the only thing on his mind.”I desperately wanted to win gold and prove to myself that I am not past my prime. The CWG disappointment was still lingering on my mind. I had always wanted to win a medal in front of my compatriots and I was immensely hurt when I failed to qualify for the final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium,” Abraham said.”I would really like to thank my coach who kept insisting that I was good and deserved to win gold. He kept egging me on and asked me to go for gold. Although I was a bit skeptical initially, I gained in confidence after the heats. Having done well in the heats, I was sure that I could finish first if I gave it my best shot.”advertisementBut the simpleton that Abraham is, he says that winning in India would have meant much more that in Guangzhou. “I still feel that winning in Delhi would have meant much more than winning in Guangzhou in front of Chinese spectators. Although there were Indian people in the crowd, but the majority were Chinese while in Delhi, most of the spectators were Indian. Only after landing at the airport on Sunday did it feel good. Even though I would be honest that there weren’t many people who were waiting for our arrival, it still felt good when the ones that were there recognised me, came up to me and congratulated me on my achievements. It always feels good when people of your own country appreciate your efforts,” he said.International sportspersons sometimes give sportsman’s spirit a miss in their bid to rake in laurels but honesty and upholding the spirit of the game have always been Abraham’s strengths.Competing at the 2009 Asian Championships in Guangzhou, Abraham had won the silver in the 400m hurdles behind Narisako.But rather than rejoicing, he was worried because he had accidentally stepped into the inside lane on his way to clearing the last hurdle and he feared that all the hard work that he had put in would go to waste and he would be disqualified.Although the referee didn’t disqualify him, for reasons best known to the referee, Abraham was honest enough to confess that he had been guilty of crossing the lane. Contrast this with Narisako’s celebrations after coming second at the Asian Games, though he had committed a technical infringement. In the end, Narisako was disqualified.While most felt that Narisako looked to be on the verge of overtaking Abraham in the final stretch, the Indian said: “I was not completely balanced after touching the ninth hurdle. As a result, he managed to gain the momentum. But I was always in control and paced my run in such a way that he wouldn’t be able to cross me.”Tactical mishaps had cost Abraham the gold at the Asian All-Star Athletics meet just prior to the CWG. Even during the heats of the CWG, it was a tactical mistake that saw him failing to qualify for the finals. So Abraham made a conscious effort to ensure that he didn’t make any goof-ups in the Asian Games.”Both in the Asian All-Star meet and the CWG, I had failed to strategise, resulting in poor finishes. But this time I was conscious and ran the first 200m without keeping the time in mind. I knew if I could conserve a bit of energy going into the last 200m, I would definitely win the gold and that is exactly what happened,” he said.Looking ahead, Abraham says competing at the 2012 London Olympics and bringing a medal for his country is his ultimate dream. “My concentration will now be solely on competing at the 2012 Olympics and bring home a medal. I will train keeping the Olympics in mind,” he said.advertisementlast_img