Gold in Olympics, Asiad, Commonwealth Games — What's left for Neeraj Chopra to achieve?
From South Asian Games to the grandest stage of the Olympics, Neeraj Chopra has kept his track record of winning gold. So what is left for him to achieve?
Neeraj Chopra has become the heartthrob of India since he threw his javelin to a mammoth 87.58m distance to win the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Neeraj's achievement exorcised the ghost that had haunted India for over 100 years of not achieving a single Olympic medal in athletics.
But what Neeraj has achieved is not a flash-on-the-pan moment for the 23-year-old hailing from Panipat in Haryana. Neeraj has been a consistent performer at all the big stages of the world.
Neeraj won his first international medal in 2014, a silver at the Youth Olympics Qualification in Bangkok. He achieved his maiden throw of 70+ metres at the 2014 senior nationals and followed that up with a world record throw in the junior category of 81.04m at the 2015 All India Inter-University Athletics Meet, his first throw of over 80m mark.
He won a gold medal at the 2016 South Asian Games with a throw of 84.23m, where he equalled the Indian national record.
In the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships, Chopra won another gold medal in Poland and set a world junior record of 86.48m. He was the first India ever to win a gold medal at any World-level athletics meet.
He, however, failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics as the cut-off date had been July 11, the week before the U20 championships. In September 2016, he left the NIS Patiala to train at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru.
Chopra won a gold medal in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha. He won gold with a throw of 85.23m.
In the men's javelin throw at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he registered a season-best effort of 86.47 metres, becoming one of the few Indian athletes to win a gold medal on their Commonwealth Games debut and the first Indian to win the javelin throw at the Games.
In May 2018, he again broke the national record at the Doha Diamond League with a throw of 87.43m.
In August 2018, Chopra made his debut appearance at the Asian Games. He threw a distance of 88.06 m to win a gold medal.
Having suffered an elbow injury, Chopra underwent surgery in Mumbai on May 2, 2019, the day after the qualifying competitions for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics had begun.
After recovery involving meditation and rehabilitative training at Patiala and the IIS Vijayanagar, Chopra travelled to South Africa in November 2019 for training under German biomechanics expert Klaus Bartoneitz. Owing to this injury, Chopra had to miss out on a significant chunk of the athletics calendar in 2018 and 2019.
What's left for Neeraj Chopra?
The injury in 2019, followed by his surgery and recovery, had robbed Neeraj of the chances of taking part at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2019. In the 2019 edition, Grenada's Anderson Peters won the gold in men's javelin throw, attaining a distance of 86.89m. Going by Neeraj's standard, he could have won the gold with a throw of 87.58, which gave him the gold medal at the Olympics.
So for Neeraj, the only big tournament left would be the IAAF World Championships, where he would make his debut in 2022 if everything goes well for him and, who knows, he might win another gold over there. The IAAF World Championships in 2022 will be held in Oregon City, US, between July 15 and July 24.
Neeraj's best throw to date remains 88.07m. While he tried throwing it past 90m on Saturday, he could not get it done. Nonetheless, now that the Olympics is over, he would be focusing on breaking the barriers and throw it past 90m.