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Can Neeraj Chopra win first-ever track and field Olympics medal for India?

Neeraj Chopra targets India first Olympics track and field medal

India is the home of 1.3 billion people. To put that in perspective, India’s population is 4.5 times the population of the United States and 20 times that of the United Kingdom. Even though, it sounds scary this number amounts to a tremendous amount of human resources which has put Indians on the global map of every facet and culture.

Hunting First Track Olympic Medal

Unfortunately, the same has not transpired for track and field. In 125 years of Modern Olympic history, India has never won a single medal in track and field events. The best performance in Olympics by Indians has been a couple of fourth-place finishes by Milkha Singh and PT Usha.

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However, this time around in Tokyo Indian hopes of getting off the bad end of history rests on the shoulders of the twenty-three-year-old Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra.

Neeraj Chopra burst into global athletics by winning world U-20 championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland with a U-20 world record of 86.48 meters. This achievement of the youngster garnered national attention and accolades. But inconsistent performances by the youngster failed to take him to Rio.

He returned to action at the global stage in the World Athletics championship in London (2017).  Gossips of a possible medal in the world championships lingered when he was just 19 years. His inconsistency coupled with inexperience led to his exit in the qualification round. This dismal performance by the youngster mortified a proud nation and he was already being marked as another one-time wonder. 

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But Neeraj was not done yet. At twenty, his career could only go upwards. He returned to win a gold medal at the Asian games 2018 with a new national record throw of 88.06 meters. He backed his wonderful performance by winning a gold medal at the commonwealth games 2018 and becoming the first Indian javelin thrower to claim a gold medal.

Neeraj Chopra Bouncing Back From Another Setback

After a string of performances, Neeraj faced yet another hurdle. In early 2019, Neeraj had to undergo surgery on the elbow of his throwing arm which led to him being out of the sports for almost eight months and also missed the world championships in Doha. After surgery, Neeraj made a strong comeback by winning the national inter-services championship with a throw of 83.90 meters which gave the youngster Tokyo birth. 

The delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been a blessing in disguise for young Chopra. Neeraj has returned to action healthy and matured. His morale is high and is confident of achieving the unimaginable for the country. In March this year, Neeraj broke his own national record and improved it by one-hundredth of a centimeter.

The only competitive international event Neeraj participated in this year has been the Kourtane Games where he faced big guns like Johannes Vetter and finished 3rd with a throw of 86.79 meters. It would be interesting to see whether Neeraj can live up to the expectation come Tokyo games. 

It mostly seems that Neeraj will be one of the many athletes who shall be fighting it out effectively for two places. It looks as if Johannes Vetter’s (Germany) time for Gold has finally arrived. Vetter has been a class above everyone throwing consistently above 90 meters.  The absence of reigning Olympic champion Thomas Rohler (Germany) and Magnus Kirt (Estonia) shall be an added advantage to the throwers. But there is still plenty of competition out there.

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Vetter’s fellow German Andreas Hoffman who has recently joined the 90 meters club shall look to follow Vetter or challenge Vetter to Podium. The Former Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott with a personal best of 90.16 meters along with Rio Olympic silver medalist Julies Yego (PB-92.72) will be in contention for a podium finish. The reigning world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada will be eager to pull off another surprise. But going by the Diamond leagues and continental tour events of recent months, no one else apart from Johannes Vetter has been able to pull off huge throws in 2021.

But it might not be the same in Tokyo. Neeraj will have to be at his absolute best and should he make it anywhere near to podium finish. The only advantage to Neeraj shall be the familiarity of the weather which will be hot and humid just like it is back in India. Ultimately for a twenty-three-year-old in a journey towards glory which none of his countrymen have achieved expectation should not be a burden. A

After all, Neeraj has already made himself and his country extremely proud. He has a long way to go and maybe in time, Neeraj might achieve more than what his countrymen are expecting from him now. 

Nilesh Beliraya

Nilesh Beliraya

Nilesh Beliraya is a former middle distant athlete who ran in Indian circuits. Currently, pursuing law, he aspires to specialize in sports law. He takes great pleasure in following global athletics and closely analyze the same. His hobbies include debating, freelancing and catching up with books. You can reach him at @Nilesh Beliraya in Twitter and @Nilesh_bk on Instagram.View Author posts