Eugene (Oregon): Cricket, Bollywood and Politics — India’s most talked about topics when you wake up on Sunday, lazily going through your morning routine and scanning through the newspaper. These days, though, the discourse seems to be shifting gradually. But why? The answer is Neeraj Chopra.
Not too long ago, Chopra’s exult with his hands in the air in Tokyo after he threw his spear at a distance of 87.58 on August 7, 2021, fetched India its first gold medal in track and field. And the entire nation celebrated his win. Journalists huddled up for bytes, politicians and other bigwigs from the entertainment industry and corporate sector took no time to express their happiness on social media. Ad agencies started queuing up for Chopra. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too congratulated the athlete for creating history.
In a nutshell, Chopra got the national talking, a country completely unaware of the existence of the sport unless a 90’s kid has ventured the game in old 8-bit video games. Come Sunday (tomorrow), Neeraj is on the verge of creating another history. Chances are bright that he will win India its second-ever medal after Anju Bobby George’s heroics in Paris 2003 where she ended the campaign with third in women’s long jump.
As we are on the threshold of another history being created, let’s track down Chopra’s performance recently, his show during the qualifiers and what’s in store in the finals.
Placed in Group A at Hayward Field, Neeraj, the reigning Olympic champion, produced an impressive throw of 88.39 metres in Round 1 and topped Group A of the qualification round to reach the final. Neeraj set the tone in Group A with an 88.39 metre throw in his very first attempt and didn’t take his second and third attempts.
The qualification was based upon automatic qualification which was fixed at 83.50 or best 12. In the Group A, Chopra and Tokyo silver medalist Jakub Vadlejch (85.23m) were able to breach the mark. However the story was different in Group B. Anderson Peters (89.91m) and Julian Weber (87.28m) too qualified in their very first attempt.
What Neeraj said after the qualifiers?
It was a good start. I am also happy for Jakub. I’ll give my 100 percent in the final. We’ll see. Every day is different. I’ll just give my best. We don’t know who can throw far on any given day. There are so many throwers in good shape now. Five-six throwers have thrown personal bests this year. They are all in excellent shape. There is a little bit of zigzag in my run-up. I shook a little bit, but it was a good throw.
Why Neeraj is a hot favourite to clinch a medal for India?
Well, he is an Olympic medallist riding on a tremendous form. He set a national record of 89.94 metres en route to a silver medal at the Stockholm Diamond League recently. Even at the qualifiers, he recorded the third-best throw of his career.
Opponents who could derail Neeraj’s swansong…
Chopra was top ranked in Group A. His throw was the second best. Chopra’s arch-rival and one of the ablest contenders vying for Gold is Anderson Peters (89.91m), who topped group B. A worthy competitor and defending champion, Peters is in brilliant form having beaten Chopra with a throw of 90.31 at the Stockholm Diamond League despite back injury. While Chopra is aiming 90 metres, Peters threw 93.07 in the Doha Diamond League.
His previous stints at the World Championships…
In the 2017 Worlds in London, Neeraj failed to get past the qualifying round. This was his debut while in 2019, he missed the tournament in Doha due to an injury.