Why Neeraj Chopra is among India’s biggest medal hopefuls in Tokyo Olympics

The Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 was a heartbreaking affair for Indians. PT Usha, arguably the country’s greatest track and field athlete, came close to winning an elusive medal. She missed the bronze in the women’s 400m hurdles by 1/100th of a second.

Ever since, India have been longing for a world class track and field athlete. The country found one when a sturdy teenager from Haryana dominated the headlines with a junior world record breaking javelin throw in 2016.

Neeraj Chopra’s throw of 86.48m as a 19-year-old in Bydgoszcz, Poland created an unprecedented buzz. In fact, Neeraj became the only Indian athlete to hold a world record in track and field events at any age category.

To put things into perspective, India have hardly had track and field athletes who were good enough to finish on the podium at the Olympic Games level. However, Neeraj’s throw in Poland would have fetched him a bronze at Rio Olympics and a gold at London Olympics.

Keshorn Walcott, who won the bronze at the 2016 Games, finished with 85.38m. Walcott had taken the gold at London Olympics with a throw of 84.58m.

Golden run for Neeraj in 2018

Neeraj Chopra, whose induction to javelin happened by accident after he moved to Panipat in search of a gym, made sure he kept his hunger after creating history at the junior level.

Neeraj focussed on consistency. His personal best remained his junior world record mark in the following year but Neeraj kept it hovering around the 85m mark.

With German great Uwe Hohn training him, Neeraj stepped up big time at the two major events in 2018 — Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. At the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Neeraj became the first Indian javelin thrower to win a gold when he came up with a throw of 86.48m.

Cut to August 2018, Neeraj Chopra showed the world he means business with gold medal-winning throw of 88.06m at Asian Games. Chopra reigned supreme in Gold Coast, shattering his own national record and inching closer to the elusive 90m-mark.

Three days after the Asian Games gold, Neeraj Chopra participated in the Diamond League final and finished 4th in the final with a throw of 85.43m. Olympic champion Thomas Rohler of Germany came up with an 85.76m effort in his final attempt to snatch the bronze away from the young Indian athlete.

Neeraj not going to rush recovery for World Championships

Just when things were looking good for Neeraj Chopra, the youngster suffered a shoulder injury earlier this year which was followed by a surgery in March.

Neeraj Chopra, who has not participated in a competitive event since September 2018, now has to come up with a cautious approach and he knows it better than anyone else.

Uwe Hohn had laid out plans for his talented ward. Chopra, who is ranked 10th in the world, needs an 85m throw to qualify for the Olympics. Throw 92m at September’s world championships and a 94m in Tokyo to finish on the podium at the Olympics.

Neeraj isn’t willing to risk rushing back from the injury. The youngster, according to The Indian Express, doesn’t want to pick up another injury in a bid to be ready in time for the World Championships.

The road ahead is looking tougher than before for Neeraj but the youngster seems to be clear with his plans. Currently in Bellary for his rehab, Neeraj is not far away from returning to competitive action.

Track and field events are decided by fine margins. Neeraj knows that well but at the Olympic level, it’s just one throw that is needed to get the job done.

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