Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj ChopraWorld Athletics

Neeraj Chopra works wonders with the javelin

Mumbai, 28 August, 2023

Neeraj Chopra continues to surprise the world of track and field sport and inspire India’s budding talent. On the last day of the World Athletics Championships, Budapest 2023 (on August 27, 2023), the 25-year-old junior commissioned officer of the Indian Army threw the 2.7m javelin to a distance of 88.17 metres to win the gold medal for the first time and crown himself as the world champion. It was his first legal throw in the final; his second attempt charging in from the runway.

It was not his best show though in the final in Hungary — he had thrown the javelin - resembling a hunting spear and made of a combination of wood and metal - to a distance of 88.77m in the preliminaries and qualified for the 12-man final that featured two more Indians in Kishore Jena (84.77m, 5th) and D.P. Manu (84.14m, 6th).

Chopra’s best has been a distance of 89.94m at Stockholm on June 22. He is yet to crack the 90m mark which his rival from Pakistan, Arshad Nadeem achieved with a 90.18 metre attempt to win the Commonwealth gold in Birmingham last year. The world record (98.48 metres) belongs to the Czech Republic’s Jan Zelezny who was an Olympic and World Champion.

Chopra is now the proud owner of every major title, an Indian track and field competitor can aspire for. He has the Asian and Asian Games gold under his belt, the Commonwealth gold, the Diamond League final gold, the Olympic gold and the World Championships gold.

From the day he made the big splash on July 23, 2016, by throwing the javelin to a distance of 86.48m, in the World Athletics U20 Championships in Poland, the fierce and ambitious competitor from Panipat, Haryana, has only swathed himself with glory and brought joy to the track and field fraternity in India and the growing followers of the sport in general. His compelling displays at every major event in the world have made the sportspersons of his ilk look at him with awe and admiration.

Chopra with his trademark bandana head gear has changed the face of Indian athletics which had for long mused at the performances of track stars Milkha Singh and P.T. Usha before long jumper Anju Bobby George won a bronze medal at the World Championships 2003 in Paris with a 6.70m effort. Although many male and female athletes showed promise, no one was able to deliver a result that would excite the sports community in the country. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the double trap silver at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and then Abhinav Bindra won the 10m air rifle gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Bindra paid tribute to Chopra’s historical win in Budapest saying: `` Immense pride watching Neeraj Chopra soar to victory at the World Championships in Budapest! Your dedication and hard work are an inspiration to all. Congratulations, World Champion @Neeraj_chopra.

With the Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou in September – October and the Summer Olympics in Paris next year, the focus will be once again on Chopra who will be the defending champion at both the Continental meet and the bigger one in the fashion capital of the world.

It took ten years for Chopra to achieve stardom after making a modest beginning in the discipline of athletics sport which was low on the popularity chart. India’s athletes have excelled in track and field events at the Continental, including in the jump events, shot put and discus throw. So Chopra’s decision to pursue a sport in his home town and excel in most competitions has indeed astounded one and all.

Chopra threw the javelin to a distance of 69.66m at Thiruvananthapuram in July 2013. This was after he had made an impression in a National junior meet in Lucknow in 2012. Clearly after seeing javelin throwers at the Shivaji Stadium in Panipat, Chopra had taken a deep interest in the sport and was determined to improve records which he did in the University meet in Patiala in 2014. Chopra’s progress was rapid and since 2016 when he won the World Junior title, he has not looked back. A throw of 87.58m won him the gold at the Tokyo Olympics and now the Diamond League and World Championships titles.

Chopra has been coached and mentored by several experts including the German legend Uwe Hohn who has thrown the javelin to a distance of 104.80m, and Klaus Bartonietz, who is his current coach and is expected to work with the Indian champion till the Summer Games in Paris next year.

Upon clinching the No. 1 position in Budapest, Chopra said” “I want to thank everyone for staying up late. This medal is for all of India. I became the Olympic champion. Now, I'm the world champion. We can achieve anything. Keep working hard in different fields. We have to make a name in the world."

The next months will be important for Chopra as he pursues his goals with a fixity of purpose. The Asian Games gold at Hangzhou and defending the Olympics gold will be his primary aim. He will have the benefit of all support systems in place to achieve more success. For the last six years, he has been the golden boy of Indian sport. As of now, it is time to savour his success and wish him the best for the future.


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