'Strong throwing arm because of pelting rocks, cricket balls': Anderson Peters returns as Neeraj Chopra's familiar foe
Grenada's Anderson Peters claimed the gold medal in the World Athletics Championships final as India's Neeraj Chopra claimed silver. The two have been sharing podiums since 2016.
When Neeraj Chopra had broken out as an overnight star at the U20 World Championships in 2016, Grenada's Anderson Peters had also been on the podium but had almost gone unnoticed. Six years later, Peters created history on Sunday by becoming just the second male javelin thrower to defend his senior World Athletics Championships gold medal.
What was remarkable about the Peters show in the final on Sunday was how effortlessly he cleared 90 metres. Even after his gold medal had been assured, the 24-year-old cleared 90m with his last throw of the day. 90.21m, 90.46m and 90.54 - all three of his throws would have been good enough for gold.
His Indian compatriot Neeraj, younger than him by just two months, came back from an early wobble to secure the silver medal.
Both the 24-year-olds started their careers together. Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal at the 2016 World Under-20 Championships. Peters had to settle for bronze. The two also participated in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where also Neeraj got gold while Peters got bronze. At the Olympics, Peters could not even qualify for the final.
Things have been different since the Olympics though. In the Stockholm Diamond League, where Neeraj made a national record by throwing 89.94 meters, Peters threw 90.31 meters and won the gold medal. Peters threw a massive 93.07m in the Doha Diamond League this year. Peters is ranked one in the world this year while Neeraj is fourth. Even in the qualification rounds in the senior World Championships, Peters had a throw of 89.91 metres.
Coming from a pelting nation
Anderson Peters seems to have inched ahead in the javelin race for now - setting up a great duel with Neeraj and Johannes Vetter for the coming months - but his dream was to be a sprinter like Usain Bolt. His experience of throwing was limited to throwing stones to get mangoes from tall trees and throwing cricket balls.
"I decided to go back and see what I could become as a javelin thrower. I am not sure what really attracted me to javelin when I was younger, I saw the other kids doing it and I thought I could throw it further than they were doing," Peters said in an interview with The Olympics Channel in 2021.
"Coming from a pelting nation, we tend to have, like, a throwing arm, throwing rocks, throwing cricket balls, so it was really easy to transition into the javelin throwing. I am not as strong as the other javelin throwers' but I am pretty sure I'm faster and more explosive than they are."
"I liked cricket. We had two seasons: cricket and track-and-field in Grenada. I would do both. I was a fast bowler. I just liked the idea of throwing the ball, I felt I could bowl it so fast that the batsman can't even see it. I would always aim to throw a 90 mph ball even though I couldn't as a kid," he told the World Athletics podcast this year.
His sprint dreams were disrupted by frequent injuries, after which he decided to move to field events. If his bronze medal at the 2016 U20 Worlds were indication that he was on the right track, his surprise win in the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha where he became the first person from the Caribbean nation to win a World Champs medal in field events set him up for greatness.
"To me it was always a natural thing to throw. As kids, we used to regularly throw a rock to get mangoes and golden apples. Our mango trees were really high," Peters was quoted as saying by World Athletics.