Neeraj Chopra winds down a sparkling year with Diamond League Champion title: First Indian to win Olympic track and field gold, first Indian to win World Championship silver, and now the first Indian to win the Diamond League.
The 24-year-old Neeraj Chopra is becoming a trophy and medal hoarder. Chopra wanted the glistening trophy awarded to the winner of the Diamond League final in Zurich more than she wanted the renowned gold in Tokyo or the historic silver in Eugene. Chopra talked about his next goal of becoming a Diamond League champion just an hour after he won silver at the World Championships in July.
He has the willpower of a great to reach where he wants to go. An injury sustained in the groyne at the World Championships was beaten, as were any potential rivals.
Chopra was favoured to win in Anderson Peters’s absence due to Peters’s recovery from a fight in which he was knocked unconscious. In the end, he performed as expected in the most important matches. A number of his devoted followers held up alphabet cards reading “Chopra Go,” a testament to his meteoric rise in popularity over the course of the past 12 months.
Chopra, in an orange jersey and a headband to keep his hair out of his eyes as he picks up speed on the runway (he had shaved his hair before the Olympics to keep it out of his face), finally found his range on his second try. Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch improved from Round 1’s 84.15 metres to Round 2’s 86 metres to maintain the early lead.
Chopra wouldn’t have bothered if the Czech thrower had been that far away. Chopra, and by extension, everyone in the audience, knew that a particularly large throw was just around the bend.
Chopra roared as the javelin left his hand and raised his right hand in the air, but he did not bother to see the distance to which it had travelled.
Chopra has developed his own signature mini-celebration ritual. This is not an insult but a call to arms before an undoubtedly gold-medal-winning throw. Chopra looked back a few seconds later to gauge his throw’s distance. He puffed out his right fist and yelled into the starry sky. He took the lead when he produced 88.44 metres, and the rest of the field had to try to catch him.
Unlike the World Championship final against Peters, Chopra was not pushed to his absolute maximum in this match. The distance of his throw in Zurich, though, was greater than in Eugene (88.13).
After this, Chopra swam 88 metres in the third round but slid to 86.11 metres in the fourth.
On his third attempt, Vadlejch committed a foul, but he still managed to score 86.94, cutting into Chopra’s lead. Chopra had nonetheless accomplished everything that was necessary to secure victory.
The only competitor in the six-man competition to go over 90 metres, Vadlejch, fell short of his own personal best. His fifth round distance was 83.95 metres, while his sixth round was a foul. Chopra’s previous to the last attempt was an 87, and his final attempt was an 83.60.
Unless he decides to compete in the National Games, Chopra will finish off a season in which he won the Diamond League and a medal at the World Championships. The World Championships, which would be held in Budapest the following year, are his next major goal.
“Now I have a thirst to convert the colour of this medal to gold in the upcoming Worlds,” Chopra had remarked.
One must go back four years to identify a competition in which Chopra did not place in the top three. In September of 2018, Chopra competed at the Continental Cup in Ostrava, and she placed sixth overall.
Since then, he has consistently spoiled sports fans and filled them with a giddy sense of pride by reaching the top of the podium and earning medals. Indian sports have suffered from a lack of medals for decades, but since Chopra’s rise to prominence, the country has seen a flood of achievements.
Chopra’s performance in the javelin throw final was so exceptional that it’s hard to picture him performing worse. It’s almost as if he had a built-in ability to win, no matter the environment, the difficulty of the opponent, or the odds. The Indian athlete has made consistency a trademark of his career.
If you looked at his medal-winning throws when he came back after a long sabbatical after the Olympics, you can see that Chopra has a failsafe technique, a lot of flexibility, and a strong mind.
He has now set a new national record twice. In adverse conditions, his winning distance this year was 86.69 metres. This year he has three throws farther than 89 metres.
After missing time with a groyne injury, he competed in the Lausanne leg of the Diamond League and won, throwing 89.09 metres to secure his spot in the championship. He had previously set a national record in Stockholm, where he competed in his only other Diamond League meet, of 89.30 metres, then lowered it to 89.94 metres.
A throw of 90 metres or more has eluded him thus far this season. The thought wouldn’t even cross his mind. One more milestone reached is winning the Diamond League.
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