Ice-cold Neeraj Chopra turns Olympic legend with India’s first athletics gold


Neeraj Chopra’s javelin flew out of his hand, disappeared in the bright lights of Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium and landed into the realm of legend.

In his second throw in the final of the men’s javelin throw competition, The 23-year-old son of a farmer from Khandra, Haryana threw his seven hundred gram spear to a distance of 87.58m. It was a huge throw. In more ways than one. It was more than enough to win the men’s javelin throw competition of the Tokyo Olympics. In that attempt, Chopra would become the first Olympic champion for India in a track and field event and only the second individual one for an Indian. Chopra didn’t just win, he absolutely crushed the field, finishing two meters ahead of the rest of the field. Who were they? It didn’t matter — Chopra had made sure of that.

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He had climbed an Mount Olympia of his own to get here. He had never had a coach growing up and only entered the sport by a quirk of fate. He had learned watching YouTube videos. His talent was always there but the time was never quite right. He had missed qualification for the 2016 Olympics only by a matter of a few days, while becoming the first Indian to win a junior World title.

“It was not my time, ” He had said then calmly. He had cemented his promise, winning gold at the Commonwealth and Asian Games. But was he that rarest of them all– a genuinely world class Indian competitor?

His path grew harder still as the efforts of his exertions saw him snap the ligament in his throwing elbow. He underwent surgery, the last option on the table and as he rehabilitated, could only watch – his arm in a sling – as Anderson Peters, the man he beat in the juniors won the world title. He missed out on a year as he recovered. He continued to bide his time, keep his faith. He would qualify at the last possible moment but then it seemed that his efforts were in vain as the games were postponed.

Would his flight to greatness be halted? It had seemed that way when on the resumption of the season in 2021, Chopra dropped out of the top 3 of the world. Johannes Vetter, with 17 throws over 90m laid down the gauntlet.

Neeraj just kept throwing consistently. At the Tokyo Olympics while the pressure got to Vetter, Peters, former Olympic champion Walcott and others, Neeraj continue to do what he did best. He consistently threw the spear as far as he could. On Saturday, when it mattered the most, he threw himself into history.

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