Neeraj Chopra, the golden boy of Indian athletics, is a world champion now. At the National Athletics Centre in Budapest, late on Sunday night, as his javelin took flight and landed at a distance of 88.17m in his second attempt history was made by the 25-year-old from Khandra, Haryana. He is now the the first Indian ever to clinch a gold medal at the World Athletics Championship. Already an Olympic champion, Chopra now has triumphed the only major competition that was left for him to be conquered.
To add to the joy, India’s Kishore Jena finished fifth with a personal best throw of 84.77m while the third Indian in fray DP Manu finished sixth with a best attempt of 84.14m.
Chopra has an Asian Games gold medal, a Commonwealth Games gold, a Diamond League title, an Asian Championships gold and an U-20 world title. Chopra’s trophy cabinet will now showcase a World Championship gold medal too.
Coming into the World Championship final, Chopra was always the favourite. In the qualification round, the Tokyo Olympics champion threw his season best attempt of 88.77m to qualify in the final with just one throw. The 2024 Paris Olympics qualifying mark is 85.50m. With that one throw, Chopra qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics too.
The next best competitor in the qualifiers was Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, who threw 86.79m. Along with Nadeem, Jakub Vadlejch of Czech Republic, who won silver medal behind Chopra in Tokyo Olympics, and Germany’s Julian Weber were Chopra’s main competitors.
Vadlejch was second in Group B in qualification and third overall with a best throw of 83.50m while Vadlejch was fourth overall with a best throw of 82.39m.
To make matters more interesting for India, Manu (81.31m in qualification) and Jena (80.55 in qualification) also qualified for the final.
The final showdown
And it was Nadeem who gave Chopra the maximum scare. The Indian superstar started with a false throw in his first attempt. However, he made a terrific comeback to hurl the javelin 88.17m in his second throw. Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem threw 87.82m (his season best score) in his third attempt to come close to the Indian.
Weber’s best attempt was 85.79m that came in his third throw. Vadlejch, on his part, could best manage a throw of 86.67 in his fifth attempt. Vadlejch finished third and Weber fourth.
The surprise package was India’s Kishore Jena, who came up with a personal best throw of 84.77m in his fifth attempt and finished fifth. Another Indian in fray, DP Manu, finished sixth with a best attempt of 84.14m.
Though, Neeraj’s next attempts were 86.32m, 84.64m, 87.73m and 83.98m no other athlete could breach his mark.