Prediction: Podium finish a long shot for Neeraj Chopra; Annu Rani might reach the final
The Tokyo Olympics is a special one for Indian javelin throw. The country will match the number of javelin throwers it has sent to the Olympics in its history, with a total of 3 athletes in Tokyo .
"Javelin throw will be India's strongest suit in athletics going into the Tokyo Olympics."
This is not a statement one would have expected to hear five years back, especially when the country had not fielded a single javelin thrower at the Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Games.
In fact, India has, so far, in history fielded only three javelin throwers in the Olympics – Gurtej Singh in 1984 Los Angeles, Jagdish Bishnoi and Gurmeet Kaur in 2000 Sydney.
Hence, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is a special one for Indian javelin throw. The country will match the number of javelin throwers it has sent to the Olympics in history, with a total of 3 athletes – Neeraj Chopra, Shivpal Singh and Annu Rani, representing the country in the event.
Not only does the country have a record representation in the sport this time around, but the javelin contingent is also seen as the one who will break the country's Olympic medal drought in athletics.
Only the second Indian woman javelin thrower to qualify for the Olympics, Annu Rani, made it through to Tokyo via the World Rankings quota. The 28-year-old from Meerut failed to breach the Olympic qualification mark set at 64m but still managed to scrape through to the Tokyo Olympics.
Annu Rani's personal best throw stands at 63.24m, which is an Indian national record and was set in March this year. This effort puts her as number 14th in the world as far as the 2021 season is concerned.
The 2021 season has not really been a great one for women's javelin on the whole. Apart from a couple of great throws early on in the season by Maria Andrejczyk of Poland and the German Christin Hussong, the rest have struggled to go past the 64m mark consistently.
In fact, only nine women have breached the 64m barrier this season, leaving the fans on the edge of their seats as to what would happen in Tokyo.
While Annu Rani's 63.24 is not really great either, one cannot really rule her out from at least qualifying for the finals at the Olympics.
Shivpal Singh comes from a family of javelin throwers but has always flown under the radar. The 26-year-old from Uttar Pradesh has largely remained off the media gaze, thanks to the meteoritic rise of Neeraj Chopra.
Shivpal Singh qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by breaching the Olympic qualification mark of 85m, with a throw of 85.47m back in March last year. While this effort from Singh certainly raised hopes of the Indian sports fans, he has failed to maintain it.
His personal best in the 2021 season stands at 81.63m. This is much below his personal best of 86.23m, and is way off what the best in the world have thrown this season. The competition in men's javelin currently is the toughest the world has ever witnessed, and Singh's throw of 81.63m is currently ranked a lowly 28th this season.
Besides, he even lost the Inter-State National Athletics title to state-mate Rohit Yadav last month. Shivpal Singh's form has dipped like anything in recent times, and it is certainly a thing of worry for the Indians.
Neeraj Chopra is the youngest of the three javelin throwers who will represent India at the Tokyo Olympics and is yet the biggest medal hope for the country in the sport. The 23-year-old from Haryana is expected to win India's first Olympic medal in field events in Tokyo, but can he really pull it off and create history?
Though Neeraj Chopra has been in decent touch in recent times, he will have to ward off tough fights from a lot of world-class athletes to stay in contention for a podium finish in Tokyo.
Chopra's personal best and season-best throw of 88.07m is the fourth-best throw of 2021, behind the likes of Johannes Vetter, Marcin Krukowski and Keshron Walcott. Besides, he is ranked eighth in the Road to Olympic Games rankings.
While one can expect Neeraj Chopra to walk into the final of men's javelin throw, expecting a medal might be a bit far-fetched. He surely has it in him to clinch that elusive medal in athletics for India, but it is not going to be easy.
Chopra is expected to face some stiff competition from the likes of Keshorn Walcott, Anderson Peters, Julian Weber, Andreas Hofmann – though he has not been at his best, and others in Tokyo.
The biggest challenge of all, though certainly will be the presence of Johannes Vetter.
If the decision of the reigning Olympic champion Thomas Rohler from Germany to pull out of the Olympics might be a blessing in disguise for Chopra, the other German, Johannes Vetter, has been throwing the javelin over 90m for fun.
In fact, the consistency with which Vetter has been throwing the javelin over 90m, it is almost locked that he will walk away with the gold medal in the Olympics without much fuss.
As of how things stand currently, Johannes Vetter not bagging the gold in Tokyo will be a bigger disappointment than Neeraj Chopra failing to earn a podium finish.
As mentioned, the current lot of men's javelin throwers is the best the world has ever seen and just blindly expecting Neeraj Chopra to come back with a medal might not really be very wise.