Neeraj Chopra effect: India has the most number of javelin throwers with 76m+ throws
Since Neeraj Chopra's gold medal at the Olympics, many have followed his footsteps and have upped their standards. The country can now boast about having one of the best talent pools in javelin throw in the world.
Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Neeraj Chopra upped his game another notch on Tuesday when he made his return to the competitive arena at the Paavo Nurmi Games, a Continental Tour event in Finland.
Appearing in his first tournament after the finals of the Tokyo Games on August 7, 2021, Neeraj bettered his throw to create yet another national record with a distance of 89.30m, clinching the silver medal. Chopra shattered his previously created own national record of 88.07m from March 2021. Yesterday's 89.30m was also the fifth-best throw of this season in the world. The Haryana lad had set his sights on crossing the 90m-mark after the Tokyo Games and it can be said that he is well on the track to fulfilling his goal.
Neeraj's journey to the pinnacle of success has, however, not only meant the best for himself but his achievements stoked a revolutionary change in Indian sports. Those who were not even distantly aware of javelin, started to take a keen interest in the sport and thus the 'javelin, meri saanson mein' jingle started making more sense. Many in India under the age of 16, have started picking up javelin sticks because of the spotlight on Chopra's success.
The recently held Inter-State Athletics tournament saw young thrower from Karnataka DP Manu in his groove. Manu's four performances this season are his career bests. In two of those throws, he registered distances above 80 metres. His 84.35m Personal Best (PB) on Saturday moved him into the top four of the all-time India top list. The throwers above him on the leaderboard are Neeraj (88.07m, 2021), Shivpal Singh (86.23m, 2019), and Davinder Singh Kang (84.57m, 2017).
Manu consistently went past 75m last season, with a best of 76.30m. He finished second at the national open meet with 74.92m. In his initial days, Manu used to watch youtube videos of Chopra and Czech javelin great Jan Zelezny to learn the skills. Chopra's junior world gold in 2016 encouraged him a lot. Manu, who was throwing at a distance of 65m even three years ago, worked upon his strength to reach this level.
Besides Manu, Rohit Yadav has also gone past 80m for the first time (80.03m). Sahil Silwal had touched 80.65m last year. All are fighting for Asian Games and Commonwealth Games spots, while the qualifying standard for the world athletics meet in Eugene in July is 85m. A total of four Indian athletes have thrown more than 80m this season, which is the second-highest by any country after the USA.
Former international Kashinath Naik, who has trained Manu and even Neeraj Chopra at one point in his career, spoke to The Bridge. "I can't express how happy I was when Manu threw 84.35m. I trained Neeraj and later he went on to win Olympic gold. I see similar potential in Manu. The number doesn't matter to me at this moment, I am just astonished by Manu's drastic improvement in the last three years."
He added, "Till Neeraj's gold-medal winning feat, we could see throwers only from elite level used to throw above 75 m, but Neeraj's moment became the watershed moment. Now even junior throwers can throw above 75m. In fact, at the Inter-state championships, seven athletes threw above 75m. You don't see this strong reserve in any other countries of the world. Not even in the countries like Germany or Finland"
In fact, a total of 12 javelin throwers from India have breached the 76m mark in 2022, which is the highest from any country this season. "If Neeraj has done it, others also are motivated to do it," concludes Naik. He believes India will soon become the powerhouse of javelin throwers and Chopra's legacy would go on to create more Olympic champions.