Countdown to Tokyo Olympics: Know your Olympian – Neeraj Chopra

A look at the career of Neeraj Chopra, one of India's finest track and field athletes and a bonafide Tokyo 2020 medal contender.

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Indian javelin throwers Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj Chopra
NameNeeraj Chopra
Date of Birth24 December 1997
Birth PlacePanipat, Haryana
Sport/Event(s)Javelin Throw
Road To Tokyo ranking7th (As of 20th May, 2021)
Major achievements2018 Asian Games Gold medal
2018 Commonwealth Games Gold medal
2017 Asian Championships Gold medal
2016 World Junior Championship Gold medal

Over the last five years, Neeraj Chopra has emerged as India’s most consistent athlete. The 23-year-old has established himself as the country’s brightest track and field prospect. Neeraj hogged the limelight back in 2016 as he broke the junior world record with a throw of 86.48m to clinch the gold medal at Junior World Championships.

Neeraj continued to carry his success with grace as he won the gold medal at the South Asian Games with an 82.23m throw. The very next year he bettered his throw to 85.23m as he clinched the gold medal at the Asian Championships. Neeraj hasn’t looked back since as he went on to win 10 more medals including five gold medals.

Following his tremendous success, he was bestowed with the honor of being India’s flag bearer at the 2018 Asian Games. Neeraj Chopra returned with a gold medal as he established a new national record with a throw of 88.06m. The very same year the prodigy hailing from Haryana clinched yet another gold medal and it was at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Neeraj Chopra qualifies for Tokyo Olympics on return from injury

Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra’s brilliant run was brought to a grinding stop by an elbow injury. In May 2019, Neeraj underwent elbow surgery on his throwing arm. As he nursed the injury, the 23 year old missed the IAAF World Championships, the Diamond League and the Asian Championships. He had to pull out of the National Championships later that year as the Athletics Federation of India didn’t grant him permission.

The move was aimed to give Neeraj more time to heal from the injury and it proved key in helping him seal his maiden Olympic berth. Making a comeback, Chopra made a throw of 87.86m at the Athletics Central North East League to book his place at the Tokyo Olympics. The fact that he easily surpassed the Olympic criteria of 86m in his very first appearance following the injury is testament to the tremendous potential Chopra posseses.

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“I feel that some of the best 2-3 years of my career have been lost,” Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra is frustrated for having missed two precious years of his career to injury and the pandemic. He shares that competitions play a huge role in preparing an athlete for the big stage. “2019 was lost because of injury, then from 2020 onwards because of COVID. I do feel that some of the best 2-3 years of my career have been lost for reasons beyond my control and you keep thinking what are we training for if there is no firm target in sight.”

How long can we keep thinking about staying positive? Everyone trains to show their efforts in competition, to test themselves against the best. Without that, training becomes meaningless,” he had said earlier during an interaction with The Hindu.

The 23-year old shares that competitions were his biggest need at the moment. He is eager to test his preparations ahead of the Games later this year. “We desperately need competitions. Even the best training cannot compare to proper international competition. I am lucky to qualify but many others haven’t.

Also, I have not participated in a full-fledged international competition for more than two years and I have to get that experience to be comfortable and prepared for the Olympics. Even the best cannot go directly from training and perform,” he insisted.

The last competition he participated were the Indian Grand Prix and the Federation Cup. It was in the former that he broke his national record with a throw of 88.07m. There is no doubt that Neeraj is one of India’s brightest medal hope in Tokyo. and he has the right attitude and temperament to make a mark in his maiden Olympic appearance and make the nation proud of him yet again.

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