“Javelin Virtuoso: Neeraj Chopra’s Journey to Olympic Glory and Beyond”

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Athletics - Olympics: Day 15Despite his young age, Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has already etched his name in the history books by becoming the first and only track and field athlete from the country to win an Olympic medal – that too a gold.

Neeraj Chopra’s gold medal at Tokyo 2020 was also India’s second individual Olympic gold medal after shooter Abhinav Bindra’s 10m air rifle glory at Beijing 2008.

Heading into the Tokyo Olympics, Neeraj Chopra was, at best, a dark horse in the men’s javelin competition which featured a strong field consisting of overwhelming favourite Johannes Vetter, reigning world champion Anderson Peters, London 2012 gold medallist Keshorn Walcott, among others.

Come the main event, though, the Indian stepped up in a major way. Neeraj Chopra topped the qualifying round with an 86.65m throw, finishing above Vetter’s 85.64m.

The challenge from Vetter to Neeraj Chopra in the final never materialised; The German struggled and failed to make it into the final eight, as Chopra led the field from start to finish.

While his first throw measuring 87.03m put him on the perch, Neeraj Chopra consolidated his spot with an 87.58m second attempt – a throw that eventually proved enough to win him the historic gold medal.

“My goal was always the Tokyo Olympics. I put in the hard work and trusted the process since every single effort counts when it comes to success at the highest level,” Neeraj Chopra said after his win.

The win was the culmination of a remarkable, yet short, journey which began with a 13-year-old obese kid taking up sports to lose weight and gain confidence.

Neeraj Chopra soon took to javelin throw after watching the sport at the Shivaji Stadium in Panipat. With the ability to throw over 40m with no training, his talent for the discipline was obvious.

Indian javelin thrower Jaiveer Choudhary recognised his potential and took Neeraj Chopra under his wings. With proper coaching, there was no turning back for the Haryana lad.

Neeraj Chopra dominated the national scene at the youth level and won multiple international accolades. He shot to fame after winning the gold medal at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

His winning throw of 86.48m at Poland still stands as the under-20 javelin throw record and made him the first Indian track and field athlete to become a world champion at any level and hold a world record.

With the qualifying cut off for Rio 2016 men’s javelin throw set at 83.00m, the attempt would also have qualified Neeraj Chopra for his maiden Olympics but unfortunately, it came a week after the qualification window had shut. Before that, injuries had hampered Neeraj Chopra’s Rio qualification campaign.

Undeterred, though, Neeraj Chopra continued shining on the international stage. He became the Asian champion in 2017 before winning gold at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Jakarta 2018 Asian Games.

Neeraj Chopra missed the 2019 world championships due to an elbow injury, which required surgery and was sidelined for 16 months. The Indian, however, bounced back immediately after his return to qualify for Tokyo 2020 at a meet in Potchefstroom, South Africa, in January 2020.

Just a year after his Tokyo triumph, Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian to win a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships. At Oregon 2022, Neeraj Chopra logged a best effort of 88.31m to finish behind reigning champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who managed a 90.54m throw to defend his crown.

The Indian javelin thrower’s medal was India’s second-ever at the worlds after long jumper Anju Bobby George’s bronze medal at the 2003 Paris world championships.

Chopra, a 2018 Arjuna awardee, has also been in possession the Indian national record in men’s javelin throw since 2016 and has bettered his own marks consistently. Neeraj Chopra’s standing national record is 89.94m, achieved at the Stockholm Diamond League 2022.

Only in his early 20s, a lot more will be expected from Neeraj Chopra after his Tokyo 2020 heroics. When he’s not competing, Neeraj Chopra serves as a commissioned officer in the Indian Army.

Gold medalist Neeraj Chopra of Team India stands on the podium during the medals ceremony for the Men's Javelin Throw on day fifteen of the Tokyo...They say a lion always takes a step back before attacking, I think of a setback in an athlete’s life is like that.

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