Tokyo Olympics: Here's how Neeraj Chopra performed compared to the top throwers during the qualification
Neeraj Chopra topped the qualification rounds and cruised into the final of Men's Javelin Throw at the Olympics
It may have been a bleak 5:45 AM in India, but Neeraj Chopra, hair, cut short, and pulled back in a bandana, a serene calm all across his face, took the javelin, paced like a train engine, and got rid of it like it had offended him before the event even began. And the result was a declaration of intent for the entire roster competing – an absolute monster at 86.65!
The qualification heats in Men's Javelin Throw in Group A had got off to a blockbuster start as both Alexandru Novac of Romania and Vitezslav Vesely of Czech Republic roared life into the event with their season-best throws of 83.27 and 83.04 on their very first attempts.
Finland's Lassi Etelatalo was the first to breach the qualification mark of 83.50 and he ended up throwing a season's best of 84.50 book his slot in the final. Neeraj took note of that and decided to do him one better and move to the top of the standings with his first and only throw of the day. With a job well done, he packed his bags and left the arena to get some rest, leaving us all wowed and mesmerized.
The only one who came close to Neeraj in Group A was, of course, the world number one and the favourite to win gold in Tokyo, Johannes Vetter. However, what was surprising today was the fact that Vetter took a while to get off the block and secured direct qualification with only his final throw – an 85.64. This meant that Neeraj topped the qualification charts after Group A.
Top-billed athletes Kim Amb, Edis Matsuvicius, and Gatis Cakss also failed to impress in Group A, although Kim managed to progress further after finishing among the top 12 performers.
The big news from Group B was Pakistan's Nadeem Arshad throwing a mammoth 85.16 to top the group and book himself a slot in the final as well alongside India's Neeraj Chopra. The other top contenders in Group B Marcin Krukowski and Keshorn Walcott also failed to secure their progress after underwhelming throws and suddenly, Neeraj's chances in the final look so much better.
The 23-year-old from Panipat obviously topped the qualification rounds, followed by the favourite Johannes Vetter, and Nadeem Ahmed. It remains to be seen whether Neeraj Chopra can translate this form and capitalize on the opportunities in the final. Vetter's presence makes the gold medal a difficult target to accomplish, but stranger things have happened at the Olympics this year. For now, India can dream.