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How Neeraj Chopra became the biggest name in Indian athletics

Neeraj Chopra's gold medal has boosted the morale of the entire nation. In the age of social media and instant hits, Chopra has become the biggest name in Indian athletics.

Neeraj Chopra after winning the gold medal at Tokyo Olympics

Neeraj Chopra after winning the gold medal at Tokyo Olympics (Source: Inspire Institute of Sports)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 2021-09-01T11:01:24+05:30

Bridgestone India partnered with IIS to establish a comprehensive Track & Field Program at the institute in Bellary. The facilities available at the Bellary centre played an integral role in Neeraj Chopra's comeback. This program, which has existed for over four years, has helped talented Indian athletes to achieve their dreams to represent and earn medals at the highest levels of international sport.

Under this program, athletes are trained by renowned coaches of the world with globally benchmarked facilities. Not only training, but the program has also facilitated a safe haven for rehabilitation and off-season training for elite athletes.

The Bridgestone Centre of Excellence for Athletics at IIS is run by Frenchman Atony Yaich. Over the years, the centre has groomed and nurtured talented Indian track-and-field athletes.

It houses global standard infrastructure, including an IAAF-approved athletics track. Further, the centre has put immense effort to focus on areas such as sports science, coaching, education, nutrition, and recovery. The centre is on a mission to help India become an athletics powerhouse.

Through the Bridgestone Centre of Excellence for Athletics, Bridgestone India has also planned to sponsor the training of 50 athletes in various disciplines, including sprints and jumps, javelin throw, and middle distance running.

Neeraj Chopra being one of the cases in August 2018, Chopra made his debut appearance at the Asian Games. He threw a distance of 88.06 m to win a gold medal.

But life turned out to be different for Chopra after the Asian Games when he suffered an elbow injury, for which he needed to undergo surgery. Chopra underwent his elbow surgery in Mumbai in May 2019. But still, he had a long road to traverse to make sure he qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics.

After his surgery, Chopra availed the Inspire Institute of Sports (IIS) in Bellary) facilities for his rehabilitation. IIS provided him the right ecosystem for training and recovering post-surgery.

In fact, after missing out on all competition in 2019, including the World Championships, Chopra took his own sweet time to recover and made a strong comeback by qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics with a throw of 87.86m at the Athletics Central North East meeting in South Africa.

Neeraj Chopra (Source: Inspire Institute of Sports)

The nation has found a new sporting hero in javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra. India waited with bated breath to end its 100 years' drought of a medal in athletics at the Olympics. On August 7, history was created when Haryana's javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

From the legendary Milkha Singh to PT Usha — everyone had dreamt of a podium finish at the Games, which was finally fulfilled by Chopra, who gave a befitting tribute to the athletes of yore.

With a mammoth throw of 87.58 m, the 23-year-old became the first Indian javelin thrower to bag an Olympics gold medal. Also, he is only the second Indian to win Olympic gold after shooter Abhinav Bindra's feat in Beijing in 2008.

After the magnificent win at Tokyo Olympics, many would find it hard to believe that Chopra's journey to win an Olympic gold medal was not as effortless as he made it look.

Chopra used to weigh 90 kg when he was just 12, and he was made fun of by his friends and family. Unable to bear the body shaming, his parents asked him to work at a gym.

At the gym, Chopra still had a pretty tough time as he ended up using equipment, which others did not want to use. Owing to these circumstances, he was sent to Panipat at the Sports Authority of India centre. This is where his journey began as an athlete.

Chopra started his training under the tutelage of javelin thrower Jaiveer, who introduced him to the sport. Initially, Chopra started throwing close 40m, and the rest still remains a history.

Neeraj won his first international medal in 2014. He won a silver medal at the Youth Olympics Qualification Games in Bangkok. By 2014, he went on to throw 70+ meters.

The trend continued at the 2014 senior nationals, and he followed that up with a world record throw in the junior category of 81.04m at the 2015 All India Inter-University Athletics Meet — it was his first throw of over the 80m marks.

2016 was a watershed year for Chopra, who won a gold medal at the South Asian Games with a throw of 84.23m, where he equalled the Indian national record. In the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships, Chopra won another gold medal in Poland and set a world junior record of 86.48m. He was the first India ever to win a gold medal at any World-level athletics meet.

He, however, failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics as the cut-off date had been July 11, the week before the U20 championships. In September 2016, he left the NIS Patiala to train at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru.

Chopra won a gold medal in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, with a throw of 85.23m. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he produced a season-best effort of 86.47m, which made him one of the few Indian athletes to win a gold medal on their Commonwealth Games debut and the first Indian to win the javelin throw to do so.

Neeraj Chopra's gold medal has boosted the morale of the entire nation. In the age of social media and instant hits, Chopra has become the biggest name in Indian athletics. This achievement would further provide an impetus for the junior athletes, who would take forward the legacy of Indian athletics in the future.

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