Neeraj Chopra’s Triumph: A Glimpse into the Journey
After another explosive performance during a time when his rivals struggled to keep up with him, Neeraj Chopra looks set to secure the World Championships javelin throw gold medal on Sunday, as they look to uplift the spirits in the Indian camp after the country’s disappointing campaign so far.
Neeraj Chopra had won a silver in the previous edition where he threw 88.77m in his first attempt during the qualification round held on Friday and also qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics. This was his season’s best effort as well as the fourth-best throw of his career.
A Studded Career
The 25-year-old has won gold medals in the Olympics (Tokyo in 2021), Asian Games (2018) and Commonwealth Games (2018), besides becoming the Diamond League champion last year.
“It is no secret that the Olympic champion prefers to throw big in his first attempt and having done that, he packed up and left the competition arena without making any further attempt to preserve strength for the all-important final on Sunday.” – An Expert in Javelin Athletics
Chopra did the same in the last edition qualification round in the USA with an 88.39m — though he finished second behind eventual champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who threw 89.91m. The same happened at the Tokyo Olympics, where he won a historic gold.
Even though Chopra has competed in just two top events this season — winning titles in both Doha and Lausanne Diamond League Meetings, his top-class throw here on Friday showed that he’s in great form and rhythm, and on course to win the only yellow color medal missing in his decorated cabinet.
Challenges and Opportunities
The absence of defending champion Peters in the final will also make Chopra’s job easier though the Grenadian has been struggling for some time. He could not even touch the 80m mark in his three qualifying round throws. That left only Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic and Julian Weber of Germany from among the throwers Chopra had grueling duels in the last two years after the Tokyo Olympics as top contenders for the gold on Sunday.
The 32-year-old Vadlejch, who had won silver and bronze in the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 World Championships, had entered the showpiece as the season leader with 89.51m but could only produce a best of 83.50m on Friday. He also admitted that his throws were not “technically ideal”. Weber, who was a notch up to Chopra at second in the season’s top list ahead of the showpiece, hinted that he had a “bad technique session” on Friday as he could only produce a best of 82.39m.
Moreover, Chopra has beaten both Vadlejch and Weber in the Doha and Lausanne Diamond League Meetings.
New Contenders and Old Rivalries
Peters is out of the reckoning, but Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem has come out of nowhere to be a contender for the gold and to renew his rivalry with Chopra. Nadeem, who last year beat Peters for the Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham with a 90m-plus throw, qualified for the final in second place behind Chopra with a best of 86.79m.
The 26-year-old Pakistani came straight to the showpiece without competing in any top event after an elbow surgery in June. But he can upset Chopra’s calculations. In Birmingham, he had denied Peters the gold with his throw of 90.18m to become only the second Asian to achieve a 90m throw. Nadeem has beaten Chopra in the race of reaching 90m first but the Indian Olympic champion has been victorious in all the events featuring the duo, starting from the 2016 South Asian Games where the Pakistani had won a bronze.
Nadeem was third when Chopra won gold in the 2018 Asian Games. He was eighth in the 2018 Commonwealth Games where Chopra clinched a gold. Nadeem was fifth in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 where Chopra won gold. Nadeem was again fifth in 2022 World Championships where Chopra bagged a silver. He also finished seventh in the 2017 Asian Championships where Chopra grabbed a gold.
Form and history would give Chopra the advantage, but Nadeem cannot be written off.
India’s Historic Achievement
Not only Chopra but DP Manu (81.31m) and Kishore Jena (80.55m) also made the cut as three Indians qualified for the final of an event in the World Championships for the first time ever.
(This story has not been edited by Smartkhabrinews staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)