The 23-year-old is India’s biggest athletics medal prospect at the Tokyo Olympics.
Neeraj Chopra is easily the hottest athletics prospect in the country. At 23 years old, the javelin thrower earned well-deserved praise during the course of his career, due to his supreme performances in the field event. His expertise, has him holding the national record in javelin, which he himself bettered over different stages of his tenure as an athlete. The Haryana-native is a huge medal hopeful for the nation, as he aims to be the first Olympic medal winner in athletics.
We take a look at 5 moments in his career that set him apart.
5. India takes notice
Neeraj was 18 years old when he took to the field in the 2016 South Asian Games held in Guwahati. His previous best at an international competition was 70.50m at the 2015 Asian Championships in Wuhan.
However, he gained notoriety amongst the national sports fans when he threw 82.23m to run away with the gold.
4. Gold at Gold Coast
The Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia came after the disappointing World Championships in London. Neeraj was placed 15th in the event, being able to register only 82.26m, far from his personal best.
He hadn’t touched the 86 m mark since his World U20 Championships Gold. The Commonwealth Games seemed like the perfect setting to recapture his form. His season-best throw of 86.47 metres was just one centimeter shy of the national record. However, that was enough to land him the top podium step in Australia.
3. Defying his age
The World got to notice the youngster from India at the U-20 World Championships in 2016. Neeraj took part in the event in Poland already with a budding reputation. The athletic fanatics around the world, however, got a real taste after his javelin event showing held at Bydgoszcz. Having already won the South Asian Games Gold earlier in the year, Neeraj vaulted himself into second place with a 79.66m throw in his first try.
However, his second attempt trumped everyone’s expectations, achieving the 86.48m mark. That turned out to be the U-20 World Record, besting Latvia’s Zigismunds Sirmais’ 84.69m by a comfortable margin.
What makes the feat even more impressive was that it was the 8th best throw amongst all Javelin throwers, even ahead of 2016 gold medalist Keshorn Walcott. Neeraj Chopra beat second placed Johan Grobler by a huge margin in the process as well(80.59m).
2. Big-time player makes big-time plays
The 2018 Asian Games allowed Neeraj Chopra to add another gold medal to his tally while also helping him better the national record he himself had set. The Haryana lad set a mark at 83.46m before making history with his third throw, which registered at a whopping 88.06m.
The youngster beat the likes of Cheng Chao-tsun from Chinese Taipei who held the Asian Record at 91.36m. The Gold proved to be a huge reminder of the immense potential held by the youngster. The performance also marked him down as a medal hopeful for the Olympics.
1. 88.07 m
What stands out about the new national record set by the Indian Javelin sensation is not the 1 centimeter increase. It was the manner in which it was achieved. The 88.07 mark is the best ever set in 2021 by a javelin thrower but the significance of that 1 centimeter boost goes far beyond that. The Indian Grand Prix where the record was set was the 23-year-old’s first official competition in 14 months, and the second in two years.
Neeraj Chopra looked like he hadn’t missed a beat despite missing majority of the 2019 season with a right elbow injury. He also had to undergo changes regarding the sport itself, switching from his usual javelin termed as the Nemeth to a Nordic Valhala which requires a more technical approach.
The 88.07 m would be a huge morale boost for the youngster and will also set all medal watchers in the country to high alert as the Olympics approaches.