India’s premier middle-distance runner Jinson Johnson has said that athletes such as himself will get better with more tournaments being hosted in India, but they will need financial assistance as well.

“Athletes need good support to perform well in world events. The Sports Authority of India is trying to garner sponsorships for athletes. The sportspersons at the university level are not working, so they need the funds to pursue sports. All equipment for any sport is expensive. So, more competitions are good for athletes, but they need to be financially supported as well,” the runner, who holds the national record in 800m and 1500m, told IANS in an interview on Monday.

After successfully hosting the Khelo India Youth Games, the Indian government has decided to conduct the Khelo India University Games in Bhubaneshwar from February 22 to March 1 to unearth more talent for the Olympics.

“I went to the United States of America for training last year. The college-level tournaments are very popular there and the level of competition is very high. The competition level is high in European university tournaments as well. Some of the university-level athletes go on to represent their country as well. So, it’ll be good if the university-level athletes receive support in India,” said the 28-year-old.

Johnson, who missed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualification mark by 24 milliseconds at the ISTAF Berlin event last year, is currently looking to book a berth at the quadrennial event.

“I am currently looking to book my place at the Olympics. The qualification mark is 3:35 minutes for the 1500m event and I recorded a timing of 3:35:24 last year, so I missed the qualification mark by 24 milliseconds. The competition level in athletics is very high. More than 200 countries participate in athletics events. I have seen a rise in sportspersons taking up athletics in the last few years. Many national records have been broken in the last few years. Neeraj Chopra (javelin thrower) has come up really well. The sports culture in India has improved in the last two-three years,” Johnson explained.