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Picked up javelin to lose weight, Neeraj Chopra gold medallist at the Tokyo Olympics

Neeraj's journey with javelin throw started when he was training in Panipat Stadium with the sole purpose of losing weight

Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj Chopra


Manish Sharma

Updated: 7 Aug 2021 12:20 PM GMT

At the Tokyo Olympics, we have seen many narratives of what if or what could've, especially in athletics, with regards to the Indian athletes coming into the picture.

What if race walker Sandeep Kumar had never joined the Indian army? What would've happened if Kamalpreet Kaur had left discus throw for cricket? What if Neeraj Chopra had picked up Volleyball, Kabaddi, or Cricket the sport which he was drawn to in his early years?

The narrative involving Neeraj Chopra, India's biggest hope for a medal in athletics, is quite an intriguing one and especially the way in which he was introduced to javelin throw.

Here's a look at the journey of the 23-year-old so far who'll be carrying the expectations of 1.3 billion people on his shoulders to end the wait for India's first-ever medal in athletics at the Olympics.

The chubby kid

Neeraj Chopra who was born in Haryana was brought up in a joint family of around 17 members among which he was the elder most child. Being a part of a big family in India meant there was a lot of love and affection from the senior members, especially grandmom's. Neeraj's grandmother was no different as well, as she used to adore him a lot, and just like any other Indian grandmother, she would show all her affection and love towards Neeraj with her food. As a child, Neeraj was always fed with all the calorie-rich desi delights in his growing years and was around 80kgs by the age of 11.

The fascination for Javelin Throw

In his early years, Neeraj was drawn towards other sports such as Kabaddi, Volleyball, and especially Cricket. However, when Neeraj moved to the Panipat Stadium with the intention of losing weight, things changed drastically. Neeraj would often run to shed some weight and then stand at some distance to watch some of the senior athletes practice their javelin throws.

He was truly fascinated by the sport and decide to give it a try himself and as fate would have it Neeraj realised that he was very good at it as well. From there on Neeraj not only decided to train hard for the sport but also for the first time in his life started to focus on his diet.

India's First Junior World Champion

Neeraj's start at the international stage wasn't the most promising one but his performance got bettered gradually. In 2013, he finished 19th in the IAAF World Youth Championships in Ukraine and two years later would finish in ninth place at the 2015 Asian Athletics Championships in China.

It was finally in 2016 when Neeraj made a big splash on the international stage as he won gold at the IAAF World U20 Championships with a throw of 86.48m which was a world junior record. In the process, he also became the first-ever Indian athlete to become the Junior World Champion.

Neeraj Chopra was India's first athlete to become a junior world champion (Source: Getty Images)

From there on Neeraj never looked back as he went on to win the gold medal at both the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games held in 2018 and put India on the map in the sport of javelin throw.

From battling injuries to Olympic finals

After a successful 2018 season, Neeraj struggled with an elbow injury that kept him out of action for some time which would eventually require surgery in 2019. Neeraj would miss the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships and the National Open Athletics Championships because of the diagnosis. The pandemic in 2020 also led to the athlete not being able to train on a regular basis.

However, in 2021 Neeraj has come back stronger and fitter. In the five competitions Neeraj participated in the year, he threw above the 83m mark four times. He also set a new national record and improved his personal with a throw of 88.07m in March at the Indian Grand Prix in Patiala.

Neeraj carried this momentum into the Tokyo Olympics in the qualification rounds as he threw 86.65m in his first and only attempt which would ensure direct qualification into the finals. The attempt was also the best among all the athletes in both groups as Neeraj topped in the qualification rounds.

There were at least a billion eyes on Neeraj Chopra in the finals as he was on the cusp of creating history and achieve what no other Indian athlete has achieved in athletics at the Olympics. On 7th August 2021, Neeraj Chopra won a Gold Medal in Javelin Throw at Tokyo Olympics and became first Indian athlete for India.

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