Who are Neeraj Chopra's toughest competitors at 2023 World Athletics Championships?
Having won the Olympics, Diamond League, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games titles, only the World Championships gold is missing from Neeraj Chopra's kitty.
The 2023 World Athletics Championships, the nineteenth edition of the global event, are scheduled to be held from 19 to 27 August 2023 at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest, Hungary. From the Indian point of view, the men’s javelin throw is set to be the highly anticipated event at the Worlds.
Neeraj Chopra, the reigning Olympic champion, will be India's biggest hope for a gold medal this year. He clinched a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships last year in Oregon, United States. He also claimed the Diamond League Final in Zurich to script another first, by becoming the first Indian athlete ever to win the elite track and field competition.
Having won the Olympic, Diamond League, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games titles, Neeraj will look to win the Worlds gold, the only missing honour from his medal cabinet.
But the start of the season was not welcoming for Neeraj, as he missed three competitions in a month due to a muscle strain. He has not been pushing himself too much, given that this is the Olympic qualification year and two crucial events - World Championships and Asian Games - are awaiting him.
However, when he returned to the track, he made a stunning statement by winning the Doha Diamond League title with an effort of 88.67m.
As Neeraj gears up for the Worlds, he will face tremendous competition. So, here are Neeraj's top five competitors in Budapest.
World Ranking - 1 Season Best - 89.51m Personal Best - 90.88m
The world leader in 2023 with an 89.51m throw, Jakub Vadlejch heads to Budapest as the stand-out contender for gold. He also owns three of the top-five throws of the season.
Tokyo Olympics silver medal-winning Czech athlete has represented his country five times at the World Championships (2011, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022), winning the bronze medal in 2022 and the silver medal in 2017. Jakub has already participated in nine competitions this season and attained three top-three finishes in the Diamond League.
World Ranking - 2 Season Best - 88.72m Personal Best - 89.54m
Nobody understands the pain of bending under pressure better than 28-year-old German star Julian Weber. His fourth-place finish in Tokyo Olympics and World Championships last year drew criticism back home. Weber will be under the scanner again in Budapest as his compatriots Johannes Vetter, Andreas Hofmann and Thomas Rohler miss the event. Weber has been regularly competing since May this season and has thrown above 87m five times in ten events he participated in, finishing second in two Diamond League meetings.
World Ranking - 3 Season Best 85.88m Personal Best - 93.07m
At the World Athletics Championships 2022, Grenadian javelin thrower Peters defended his world title. Peters became the first male javelin competitor since Jan Zelezny in 1993 and 1995 to defend his Worlds gold medal. He also became the only athlete to produce three 90-meter throws at the Worlds final. Out of the 17 editions of the World Championships, only Jan Zelezny had won the title more than once. He won the gold medal three times. Now, Peters has a chance to match Zelezny’s record. He also won a silver medal for Grenada at the 2022 Commonwealth Games with a throw of 88.64 m.
Last year, in the build-up to the World Championships, he won two Diamond League meetings with a throw above 90m. However, this year he has been struggling to gain form. He managed only two 85 metre-plus throws in 11 competitions he participated in 2023.
World Ranking - 4 Season Best 85.85m Personal Best - 90.16m
Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad is the first Caribbean male athlete, as well as the first of African descent, to win the gold medal in any throwing event in the history of the Olympics. Having been the youngest Olympic gold medallist in the men's javelin (19 years 131 days) and the first athlete in any track and field event to win World Junior and Olympic titles in an individual event the same year, Walcott will never be out of recokning in any major events. But a podium finish at the World Championships has eluded always him. He has competed in the Worlds five times, and the best performance he could acquire is a seventh-place finish in 2017. His best performance this year is a second-place finish in Kuortane Games.
World Ranking - Nil Season Best Nil Personal Best - 90.18m
Pakistani javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem created a new national and Commonwealth Games record with a throw of 90.18m and became the first-ever athlete from South Asia to breach the 90m mark during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Among all the athletics events in Paris Olympics 2024, it is only in the men's javelin throw event where a Pakistani athlete has a better national record than an Indian. Arshad Nadeem is also the first Pakistani to qualify for the final of a track and field event at the Olympic Games and the World Athletics Championships. He finished fifth in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and the World Championships last year. Arshad was struggling with injuries last year, and after his heroics at Commonwealth Games, he left for the UK in December to undergo treatment to heal his injured elbow and knee joint.
After recovery and rehabilitation post-surgery, Arshad participated in the National Games of Pakistan. He won the javelin throw event with a 78.02m throw. After rivalries in cricket and hockey, neighbouring nations India and Pakistan will look to taste another rivalry between Neeraj and Arshad.
Oliver Helander (World Ranking - 6, Season Best - 87.32m, Personal Best - 89.83m) and Timothy Herman (World Ranking - 9, Season Best - 87.35m, Personal Best - 87.35m)