Long Read: The rebuilding of hurdling star Jyothi Yarraji

Jyothi Yaragi, 22, didn’t react to the starting rifle fast enough, it was a poor start to her race at the Cyprus International Show earlier this month. Being slow off the blocks is a 100m hurdles nightmare. Old Jyothi would not have recovered from this early setback and would have lost the podium.

However, these days don’t throw in the towel. Jyothi’s newly acquired mental toughness, improved speed, cutting edge technique and increased flexibility in the hips helped the 13.23 second clock to drop the 20-year-old national mark at 13.38 held by Anuradha Biswal.

It was a watershed moment in Jyothi’s career. In Cyprus, the race was expected to be won by a local athlete, with a large following and a personal best time faster than Jyothi. But this was not to be. By the end of the race, the filming crews were following India’s newest track star. For coach James Heller, the hard work of “rebuilding” Jyothi has paid off.

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“When I broke the national record in Cyprus, there was a local girl who had a faster PB, and she said things to Jyothi.

The Jyothi had a bad start because the gun they use in Europe is different. She did not hear the sound of the gun but kept her focus, power and hit the girl. Going and doing it shows that she is confident and has faith. Self-confident athletes are dangerous, but faith is the most powerful thing an athlete can have, said Heller, technical director of the Odisha High-Performance Athletics Center.

In the coming days, Jyothi proved that her record-breaking achievement in Limassol, Cyprus, wasn’t a quick run. She will improve her timing at the Loughborough IAAF (13.11sec) and reduce the seconds in the Harry Schulting Games (13.04). In less than three weeks, Jyothi NR erased three times.
The good news for Indian athletics does not end there, as her coach Hellyer said she can run faster. Talk about the factors that were responsible for this transformation.


About 10 months ago, after getting back on the track after being forced with an injury, Jyothi found it difficult to get past one hurdle. The coach, physiotherapist and coach started ‘Rebuilding Jyothi’ from scratch at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar, in July.

“She had no confidence because she had injury issues, and she didn’t mind me saying that she was afraid of the hurdles at the time. In our first session, the only hurdle was at the lowest level. She didn’t even want to go over that. So we had to start With one hurdle, we do some practice runs and then we go to two hurdles, then three hurdles. It took time. Now she’s confident on the starting line in any race. She may not always win and that’s fine, but she thinks she can win,” Heller said.


Epidemic lockdown and injuries disrupted Jyothi’s training. She sat at home, no longer punishing her body. Jyoti said this reduced her confidence, fitness, speed and strength, and it went down to zero. Getting into the gym to start basic weight training was a daunting task. Pep’s conversations were the need of the hour.

“She would come to the gym and say ‘I’m so weak, I can’t lift this and they lift that.’ She was comparing herself to others. But she just needed to focus on herself,” Heller said. It matters if someone else is rising more in the gym, that’s what they’re good at, you’re good at other things.”
When I tried to squat with a barbell lifting 20 kilograms, I failed. “She weighs 55 kilos now, and after that she couldn’t even do 20 kilos, and her strength has improved incredibly,” Heller said.

Obtaining strength was just one part of the reworking process.


Speed ​​is very important in the women’s 100 meter hurdles, a little more than the men’s 110 meter hurdles.

“Women’s hurdles are lower than men’s for hip height. This means speed is a more factor in women’s hurdles than men’s. We have to train them at a high intensity.”

Heller confidently predicted that Jyoti could win a medal even in the women’s 100m in a national competition. “We’re not going to do it (running the 100 metres) but it’s really fast now compared to before.”

Jyothi underwent strenuous flight speed training but in a gradual manner to avoid injury.

“We’ve been doing things like aerial rides, flying in 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 seconds. So we build intensity first and then infer speed over a slightly longer distance. To develop speed, you have to develop top speed. Top speed is under seven seconds. of running, and if you go over seven seconds, that basically means enduring speed.”

So the Flying 10 sprint would be 40m, where in the first 30m Jyothi increased her speed and in the last 10m she would do her best. “We’ve only been picking the last 10 times. The body has to get used to something horrible. The body doesn’t like high intensity, so we have to get used to it. Her speed has improved dramatically. About 10 to 12 percent improvement from October to March. Which is a number Huge. If you get a one percent improvement, you’re really happy.”

the body

Jyothi was measured for each variable separately, says Dr. Nilesh Makwana, Heller’s Fellow and Lead Sports Physiotherapist at the Reliance-Odisha Group. The “musculoskeletal examination, peak muscle strength, muscle strength, and range of motion” readings were plotted on the charts and constantly updated. Every fourth week of training will be a test week.

“She had done high-intensity workouts and she would tire, her muscles getting tired. The challenge was making sure she was well-fueled, eating well, sleeping well and recovering quickly the next day. Preventing injury was key,” Makwana said.

Epidemic lockdown and injuries disrupted Jyothi’s training. She sat at home, no longer punishing her body. (Twitter / SAI Media)


Jyoti also bears ingrained issues; It’s not unique to her but is commonly found in nearly all hamstrings – there is a vast difference in flexibility of the right and left hip and also strength in the right leg and left leg.
Prolonged running without correction can cause injuries.

“We had to make sure the right and left hips had the same range of motion. Lots of hurdles, because they have a driving leg and a pilot leg, they have a different range of motion because one of her legs is always doing a different job than the other leg. We were trying to mitigate any potential injury from the Imbalances.But there was a big difference (in Jyoti’s case).Her right hip was tighter.Left hip had a little more range.Left leg is her swinging leg,so trail leg was moving in left hip.We used terra bands and specific exercises.Physicist will give me a report Then, when we did the diagnostic tests, we were happy,” Heller said.

After her initial first steps onto the track in July, Jyothi says it took two to three months for her to regain health, regain confidence and train hard.

Having her name in the record books means tears are a thing of the past for the athlete from Visakhapatnam, who has booked a place in the impressive squad for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year.

She was denied the title of national record holder twice earlier due to no fault of her own. Two years ago there were no doping tests at the All India Combined Athletics Championships in Mudpidri, Karnataka. Its time of 13.03 seconds has not been certified. Last month in the FA Cup, the wind speed exceeded the legal limit, the spoiler played when it scored 13.08. There is a touching video from the Fed Cup in Calicut of Jyothi crying and Hillier comforting her.

“It is not that I am aiming for the national record. Instead, I want results for my hard work. If I can apply on the right track for what I do in training, I am satisfied. If there is no process then nothing will happen. The Commonwealth Games will be the first competition “I know I can run faster because I trust my training methods,” Jyoti said.

Heller is at the heart of its training programme. Like a watchman who restored a classic watch, no detail is too small for him.

“Being an athlete takes 24 hours. Even when Jyoti goes for a walk, she has to walk properly. If she walks in bad posture you will not run with good posture. All the little things add up.”

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