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Jyothi Yarraji equals 100m hurdles national record but misses direct Olympic qualification by a whisker

Andhra hurdler still likely to make the cut for Paris and recent change in technique should help her cut down her timing even further

There is no end to Jyothi Yarraji’s quest for excellence. Even though the 24-year-old is the only Indian to clock a sub-13s timing in 100m hurdles, she still feels there’s massive scope for improvement.

At the Monet Grand Prix in Finland on Monday, she showed her class yet again, clocking 12.78s to equal her own national record, despite almost tripping on the final hurdle. The Andhra missed the direct Olympic qualification mark by just 0.1 seconds and was not satisfied with her finish, even though she is likely to make the Paris cut by either meeting the direct qualification criteria in races in the near future or through world rankings quota.

“It was a really disappointing race for me,” says Jyothi. It’s not what athletes usually say after clocking a national record timing, but that’s probably what sets her apart.

Jyothi, who has run sub-13 races almost two dozen times since last year, is on a training and competition stint in Europe under coach James Hillier. She landed in Tenerife, an island just off the Spanish coast, where she had a three-week training session to work especially on her starts.

Earlier this season, Jyothi decided to make a major change to her starting routine, moving away from a habit of 10 years. She would earlier approach the first hurdle in eight strides but realised that she was getting too close to it. “I spoke to my coach and we decided to approach the first hurdle in seven strides instead of eight,” she explained.

Change is tough

Although it may sound simple in theory, even a minute change in technique at this level requires tremendous effort.

The stride reduction also meant that Jyothi would now have to take off from the blocks on her right leg instead of the left (her weaker left leg would be in front at the blocks). “It is like asking a person who has used their right hand to eat all their lives to suddenly switch to the left. It is a habit and doesn’t go easily. It is extremely difficult but the tweak is already helping me on hurdles three and four,” says the Hangzhou Asian Games silver medallist.

Coach Hillier is pleased with her ward’s progress and feels she could have easily clocked 12.60s had she not hit the last hurdle. But Jyothi and her team are relieved that she came off without injury.

“It shows how strong she is. She hit the final hurdle hard and almost stopped but somehow stayed on her feet. We are happy that she didn’t get injured,” says Hillier.

It is only a matter of time before the national record is disturbed again, feel Jyothi and Hillier as they continue their European training stint. Jyothi may have adapted well to training in Europe but there is one area that she finds very difficult to adjust to.

“It’s so difficult,” she says with agony in her voice while talking about food. “I really miss home food and it is so tough for me. We manage to cook something but this is also a learning experience. This is the most difficult part for me,” says Jyothi, a self-proclaimed biryani lover.

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