Neeraj Chopra Spears Another Gold
This added to India’s sparkling tally at the Asian Games
If consistency is the name of the game, then look no further than Neeraj Chopra. His gold in javelin added to India’s sparkling tally at the Asian Games in Hangzhou.
On a night where expectations were sky high, India’s ace javelin thrower, Neeraj Chopra, did not disappoint. Adding gold to India’s tally of medals at the Asian Games in China, Chopra had only to better himself as has recently been the case not only in the Indian context but on a global level in order to occupy the top position on the winning podium.
Neeraj Chopra is becoming a visible sighting for Indian athletics at global events, becoming the benchmark for other javelin throwers to cross as a hurdle and not coming within touching distance. Chopra proved his supreme skills and prowess once more, impressing all as he overcame technical hiccups to defend his Asian Games gold medal.
What was brilliant was that Chopra’s season best throw spanning 88.88m was the gold clincher but that India had another Indian in the ranks for a silver medal with Kishore coming in at 87.54 m.
Technical glitches dogged Chopra’s attempts and might have even robbed him of early success when his first throw was not counted and was made to attempt again though the technical glitches persisted. Kishore Jena was not spared that chaos either, shown a red flag, that is only done when an athlete crosses the throwing line which Jena clearly didn’t.
Sloganeering and ad campaigns have been calling for a hundred medal tally at the Asian Games for India. However, while China has more than 160 and is inching closer to a record 200 medals, India has had to be content sometimes with less than expectations, not seeing what these athletes go through behind the scenes to get as far as they do, leave alone how much further they could go with better infrastructure.
Neeraj Chopra though is scripting a different story, showing success at the highest level is not only possible but that the Indian athletes have it in them to go the distance. What they need is foundational backers, so neither is a gold a rarity nor is a huge medal haul at these prestigious events.
What is heartening for India and perhaps a sign that with a bit more support, India could dominate the discipline of javelin, barely two months ago, as many as three Indian athletes including Chopra made the World Championships final in Budapest.
Apart from his gold in Budapest, Chopra was also the athlete who broke India’s 19 year drought at the championship when he last won a silver at the championships in the same javelin event. To now dominate the world is quite a record and a matter of great pride for India and for Chopra and is a testament to not only his hard work but the obstacles sportspersons from obscure sports in the country have to overcome while they display the ability of consistent world domination.
Incidentally this is not Neeraj Chopra’s first medal at the Asian Games. The twenty-five year old has an impressive gold medal haul that includes the Commonwealth Games in 2018, the Asian Games in 2018 and the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
At the recently concluded World Championships 2023 at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest, Chopra was the top medal winner with a throw of 88.17 metres on his second try. The feat was only closely followed by Arshad Nadeem of Pakistan who came in second with a distance of 87.82.
While the rivalry from the athletes from neighbouring countries as was witnessed during the Olympics was missing from this Asian Games edition due to injury to the Pakistan javelin thrower, Neeraj Chopra showed he was in a class of his own.
Neeraj Chopra has already put himself in a league largely his own. He is only the third javelin thrower in world history to have achieved the double feat of having both, a world Championships title (which is earned himself in late August of this year) and an Olympic gold after Czech Republic’s Jan Zelezny and Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen.
Chopra though is not alone on the Indian scene though it has been a while since someone joined Abhinav Bindra in that rare air club. Bindra’s double success came at the World Championships titles at age twenty-three and he won his gold at the Olympics when he was 25. Chopra is the same age now and seems destined to go much further.
That Neeraj Chopra has set his sights higher, or longer in terms of distance one could say, was obvious when he nearly broke the 90m record. He came close at last year’s Stockholm Diamond League with a throw of 89.94m. back in April.
When asked the question of when he might join the 90m club that is currently the privy of the likes of Jan Zeleny, Thomas Rohler and more recently, Anderson Peters, Jakub Vadlejch, Chopra told journalists earlier in April, “I am getting this question asked since 2018.
“I believe I can do it this year because I was very close to the mark last season. I think the injury mid-season could be a reason why I didn’t cross the 90m mark. There is no overconfidence in me when I say that this season I have the belief that I will cross the 90m mark.”
While the 90m mark hurdle seems only a matter of time given all that Chopra has accomplished over the past five years, sealing the gold at the Asian Games suggest he has much further to go, eyes set next on defending his gold at the Olympics in Paris next year.