Puri to Paris: Kishore Jena's Inspiring Journey to 2024 Olympics

The inspiring story of Kishore Jena, who went from poverty to the Paris Olympics in just two years, becoming India's latest javelin sensation.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip Mohanty

Last Updated: 2024-02-19

Wade McElwain

5 minutes read

On October 4th, 2023, Neeraj Chopra, the Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion in Men's javelin throw, successfully defended his Gold Medal in the 2023 Asian Games held in Hangzhou. During the competition, Chopra's compatriot, Kishore Jena, initially took the lead over Chopra in his third attempt. However, Chopra responded with his best throw of the season, measuring 88.88m, securing the Gold Medal. Jena, with his personal best throw of 87.54m, earned the Silver Medal.

Kishore Jena Neeraj Chopra Asian Games 2023.jpeg

India achieved a historic 1-2 finish in the javelin throw. Most notably, Kishore Jena secured his spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics by reaching the Olympic qualifying mark of 85.50m.
Kishore Jena has had a fairytale rise in the javelin over the past two years, going from the coastal town of Puri in Odisha to the Paris Olympics. He is the latest javelin sensation and one of the most improved athletes in India. 

In an exclusive interview with, Jena shares his plans and ambitions for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Paris in July-August this year.

By July 2023, Kishore Jena's career seemed to be stagnant. After a disappointing performance in the Lebanon National Championships, where he threw much less than his personal best of 82.87 meters, he had considered quitting. However, in just three months leading up to the Asian Games in October 2023, Jena has managed to narrow the gap with Neeraj Chopra by almost two and a half meters.

When asked if he plans to surpass Neeraj Chopra's record in the Paris Olympics, Jena modestly smiles and says, "I don't have such ambitions." Like every athlete, my ultimate goal is to win a Gold Medal in the Olympics, and that's what I aspire to achieve. However, my immediate focus is to surpass my personal best in the Paris Olympics. 

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“Every athlete has an ambition for Gold in the Olympics and so do I. But my first goal is to better my personal best in the Paris Olympics.”

Kishore Jena on his plans for 2024 Paris Olympics

Puri to Paris: Kishore Jena's Journey

Kishore Jena Asian Games Silver Medal.jpeg

The youngest of seven siblings and the only son in his family, Jena, hails from Kothasahi village in Brahmagiri block of Puri. Growing up, he aspired to join the armed forces to support his family. While he enjoyed playing various outdoor games, he excelled in volleyball. His impressive volleyball skills during his time at Alarnath Dhandamulak Mahavidyalaya, the college he went to, earned him a spot in the Sports Hostel in Bhubaneswar, managed by the Odisha government.

However, due to his lack of inches (176cm), his coach at the hostel, Nilamadhab Deo, suggested that he switch to javelin.

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“When I was in college, I was unaware of the need for additional equipment like spikes to throw javelin. I started throwing with bamboo javelin with normal running shoes, costing around 700 to 800 rupees”

Kishore Jena remembers his early days

In 2014, I started my journey in javelin throwing and achieved a distance of 55 meters, securing the second position at the state level. In 2018, I obtained a job with CISF as a result of my sports achievements. During this time, my main priority was ensuring the well-being of my family, as we were going through a significant financial crisis. Recognizing the financial demands of competing at an elite level in sports, I did not allocate much resources to improving my javelin skills. Instead, all of my earnings were used to support my family.

The Turning Point

When Neeraj Bhai won a gold medal in the 2021 Summer Olympics, it served as a huge motivation for me. Our department coach, Jagbir Singh, informed me that if I could surpass a 75-meter throw, he would recommend me for the national camp in Patiala. Jagbir Singh had been the coach in the national camp for many years, where Neeraj Chopra honed his skills. It was at that moment that I became serious about my sports career. I trained hard and took part in the open national trial in Odisha, where I threw 76.4m and qualified for the national camp, said Jena.

However, he was not able to significantly improve his personal best. In the Lebanon National Championships, he threw 78.96m and won the Gold Medal, but this was less than his previous personal best of 82.87m. Jena confessed that at that time, he wanted to give up and focus on his job due to the lack of financial support. He had been spending money from his pocket. Therefore, Jena described the Lebanon result as devastating.

At a crossroads in his career, Jena made a midnight call to his father from his hotel room in Beirut and confided in him that it was time for him to hang up his boots. However, his father motivated him to give it one more try at the next event, the Sri Lanka National Athletics Championships in Colombo. If things don't improve, then he can return to his job and take care of the family. 

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“The turning point in my life was the Sri Lanka event. From there I went to World Championship, to Asian games and I qualified to Paris Olympics.”

Kishore Jena on the Sri Lanka National Athletics Championships in Colombo

Kishore Jena and Neeraj Chopra.jpeg

I arrived at the Sri Lanka event with low expectations. It was my final attempt, and I wasn't feeling any pressure since I didn't have much to lose. However, I couldn't help but feel nervous at the same time. It was a make-or-break event for me. Thankfully, with God's grace, I performed well," says Jena, breathing a sigh of relief.

Jena achieved his personal best throw of 84.38m, earning him a spot at the World Championships and reigniting his self-belief. Since then, Jena has consistently improved his personal best in every subsequent event. He threw a then-personal best of 84.77m, finishing 5th at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August 2023. Jena went on to throw 87.54m in the Asia Games, winning the silver medal and setting his current personal best.

Although Jena had seen his idol Neeraj Chopra in action previously at the 2015 All India University event, there was no personal interaction. After the Sri Lanka event, which allowed Jena to qualify for the World Championship, Chopra sent a congratulatory message to Jena. They finally met at the World Championship in Budapest. By that time, Neeraj Chopra had already qualified for the Paris Olympics. 

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“When we met in Budapest, Chopra called me to his room and gave me his ‘Road to Paris 2024’ emblem. He asked me to do well in the Asian games and we should go to Paris.”

Kishore Jena on his idol Neeraj Chopra

In preparation for the Paris Olympics, Jena is in a positive space, focusing on technique, strength, and power. With support from various entities, including the Odisha government, Athletic Federation of India, SAI, TOPS, and Reliance Foundation, financial worries are no longer a concern for him.

Jena's journey from Puri to Paris epitomises an incredible amount of hard work, dedication and determination. He underscores the significance of conviction, self-belief, faith in coaches, and consistent practice for aspiring athletes.

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Dillip Mohanty
Dillip MohantySports Editor

Dillip has over two decades of experience in creating sports content. As the Sports Editor of SportsBoom, Dillip brings in a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Dillip has worked with leading sports broadcasters and sports web content portals in Asia. He is an adept storyteller and has a special liking for data stories. He has a keen interest in data analysis and uncovering insights from large datasets. He loves to tell the story with rich and compelling data visualisation.