Tokyo Olympics: Why Neeraj Chopra could have an edge over Johannes Vetter in Javelin Throw Final?
Neeraj Chopra could have the edge over gold medal-favourite Johannes Vetter in the Javelin Throw Final
We don't want to get your hopes up here, but when Neeraj Chopra takes to the field on August 7, spear in hand, hoping to throw it far enough to end India's long wait for an Olympic medal in athletics, he will come up against a formidable force in Johannes Vetter. That part you already knew. What you probably didn't know is the fact that he might just have the edge over him in the Tokyo Olympics Javelin Throw Final.
Johannes Vetter of Germany is the favourite to win the gold medal. And why wouldn't he be? Only in the last two years, Vetter has launched 90m+ throws a record 10 times! Vetter's best throw of 97.76 is the second greatest throw of all time after Jan Zelezny's 98.48m. His unbelievable form puts him head and shoulders above the field and ahead of the Javelin Throw heats, only a fool would bet against him.
However, during the qualification rounds, Vetter looked like a shadow of his own self. For a man who's accustomed to making 85+ throws look like bread and butter, it took him his third and final attempt to breach the direct qualification mark of 83.5m. He could only manage 82.04 and 82.08 in his first couple of attempts. Even his final throw of 85.64m couldn't eclipse Neeraj Chopra's 86.65.
Looking at his throws closely, it appeared that Vetter was throwing them quite high, instead of flat, and as a result, didn't get the requisite trajectory on them. Speaking to the media afterwards, he said, "There are some technical problems which I have to fix right now. It's not right, it's not the same feeling as in May, June or July. So yes, that's what I have to work for right now."
However, one word that made the rounds during the qualification more than anything else was 'conditions.' With the Heats scheduled in the morning, athletes struggled to bring out their best selves because of the hot and humid conditions. Several favourites who were expected to make it to the final, including the likes of Edis Matusevicius, Keshorn Walcott, Marcin Krukowski, and Gatis Cakss, failed to even qualify.
"The conditions are the same for everybody. I've been struggling a little bit with my technique for a couple of weeks and I am trying to fix it on to Saturday. I want to give my best on Saturday, and then we will see how far it goes," Vetter further added.
So, the conditions. Is there something genuine here or are we clutching for straws? Of the ten 90+ throws Vetter has managed over the last two years, all of them have arrived in European conditions with the highest temperature being 24 degrees centigrade. In fact, his only 90+ throw outside Europe arrived at the Doha Diamond League in 2018.
The conditions in Tokyo tomorrow are expected to be hot and humid with the temperature ranging between 27 degrees and 34 degrees Celsius. In the evening when the final is supposed to be held, however, a thunderstorm is expected to strike the city. As things stand at the time of writing, there's a 60% chance of precipitation and the humidity is expected to be around 84%.
Whether we'll have the final at that designated time itself or earlier or afterwards and what will the conditions be at that time is a different question, one we do not have the answer to. What we do know, however, is the fact that the hot and humid conditions in Tokyo are definitely outside Johannes Vetter's comfort zone.
It's a point he had brought up while greeting Neeraj during the warm-ups almost pulling his leg regarding the fact that he's used to these temperatures coming from India. Although Neeraj spent the last few months right before the Olympics training in Sweden, Vetter does have a point. Neeraj didn't break stride and sealed qualification with a mammoth throw in his very first attempt of the Heats.
Speculation being speculation, Johannes Vetter could force us to eat our own words with a 90m+ throw in the final on August 7. However, the chances of that happening taking everything into account are unlikely. It must also be mentioned here that the 90m mark has been breached only twice in Javelin Thow Olympic Finals in the 21st century. And on both occasions (Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016), the throwers (Andreas Thorkildsen and Thomas Rohler) went on to win the gold medal.
If everything goes well, and the event is held, Neeraj Chopra could manage a podium finish if he throws his personal best – an 88.07 recorded in Patiala in March this year. Pushing to an 88.5+ could also give Vetter a run for his money by all means.
What we do know with certainty here is that we have an exciting final at our hands. Hope the conditions do not end up playing spoilsport.