Two more 90m+ throws at Diamond League: All eyes will be on Neeraj Chopra's return
As we wait eagerly for Neeraj Chopra's return to competition after the Tokyo Olympics gold medal, the Doha Diamond league saw two javelin throwers breaching the 90m mark — a target that has eluded the Indian champion.
Tokyo Olympics gold medallist javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has conquered every big challenge thrown at him. Starting from the World Junior Championships in 2016, the 24-year-old went on to win gold medals in the 2016 South Asian Games, 2017 Asian Championships, 2018 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and lastly, the Tokyo Olympics in 2021
Being hailed as one of the greatest Indian athletes of all time, the only feather that is left to be added to Chopra's crown is a medal at the IAAF World Athletics Championships. The second Indian to win an Olympic gold would be raring to hit the bull's eye in his debut World Championships this year which begins on 15 july in Oregon, after missing out on participating in the previous edition in 2019 due to a shoulder injury.
Neeraj is set for a high-voltage return to competition at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland, on June 14. His much-anticipated comeback, the first since his sizzling performance in Tokyo, will be a showdown with German star Johannes Vetter, world champion Anderson Peters and Julian Weber, who finished fourth in Tokyo. While the Indian has registered a best throw of 88.07m, he acknowledges the fact standing in 2022, he has to keep on breaching the 90m mark consistently.
The field of competition has aggravated in the span of nine months since his Olympic medal. During the first Athletics Diamond League competition of the year in Doha on Friday, Neeraj's two main contenders — Anderson Peters of Grenada and Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic — produced stellar 90m+ throws to register the best performances this year. While Peters hurled his javelin at a distance of 93.07m in his sixth attempt to win the gold medal, Vadlejch finished second to with a throw of 90.88m in his 5th attempt.
Among the active players, both Peters and Vadlejch's records in the Doha Diamond League stood out to be the third and fourth-best throws in the world since 2015. World no.1 Johannes Vetter, who threw at a distance of 97.76m in 2020 still stands atop the list. Neeraj's personal best of 88.07 finds his place in the 19th position on the list. Therefore, it will be imperative for the Indian to up his game even further this year, to assure himself of a medal in the World Championships, where all the top throwers of the world would be aiming to get in red-hot forms.
"Medal is one thing, distance is another. Crossing the 90m mark will put me on the list of the world's best throwers," Neeraj Chopra had said during a virtual media interaction in December. "The gap is of about 2m. It's not too less also but I don't think it's impossible because my training is good. I don't think about it much but it's a barrier that I'd like to breach this year," added the Panipat lad.
All we can hope is for Neeraj to make a sensational return to the competitive arena next month and if he can breach the elusive mark before the World Championships, even the best in the world would be keeping an eye on the 2021 Khel Ratna awardee.