After wrestler Narsingh Yadav failed a dope test ahead of Rio Olympics 2016, there was a pall of gloom in the Indian sporting fraternity. Amidst the low and shame, comes good news. In a stunning performance, Neeraj Chopra of India created a new junior world record on his way to the gold medal in the men’s javelin throw event at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Poland to script history.
Chopra hurled the javelin to a distance of 86.48 metres at the Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak Stadium to beat the previous record of Latvia’s Zigismunds Sirmais by nearly two metres.
Chopra, thus, became the first Indian to win a gold medal in the history of the World U20 championship. Sirmais had set the previous junior world record of 84.69 metres on June 22, 2011, in Bauska, Latvia.
Chopra, who is the first Indian athlete to set a world record at any level, bettered his previous personal best of 82.23 set at the South Asian Games earlier this year, which incidentally was also the old national record.
“I was hoping to throw far but I never expected to throw over 86 metres and break the world U20 record,” Chopra, who had registered 79.66 metres with his opening attempt, said.
“My ultimate target was to qualify for the Olympics but I didn’t make it. My other goal was to win at the World U-20 Championships,” he was quoted as saying by the official website of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Chopra threw a modest 78.36m in his third and final legal attempt.
The Haryana athlete’s attempt ranks eighth amongst all javelin throwers this year. It also puts him ahead of defending Olympic gold medalist Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago, whose best so far in 2016 86.35 metres. The Indian’s effort is better than the attempt of 84.58 metres which won Walcott the gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
Chopra led the 2016 World U20 list of season’s best performances with 82.23 metres in February. But he hadn’t surpassed the 80-metre line since then, which suggested that he may have peaked too early.
South Africa’s Johan Grobler added 6 metres to his lifetime best with 80.59 metres to claim the silver medal, while Grenada picked up their first ever medal in a field event with Anderson Peters improving his national senior record to 79.65 metres.
Congratulating Chopra for his achievement, Sports Minister Vijay Goel announced a cash prize of Rs. 10 lakh.
“Congratulations Neeraj Chopra to become first Indian world champion in athletics. Kudos!! You have made India proud,” Goel tweeted.
“I am delighted to announce that Min of Sports would award Rs. 10 lakh to Neeraj Chopra for winning Gold medal at U-20 World Championship,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also congratulated Chopra, tweeting, “Congratulations Neeraj Chopra for the outstanding sporting accomplishment. We are proud of you.”
A host of current and former sportspersons also congratulated the youngster from Khandra village in Panipat district of Haryana.
“#NeerajChopra Great going!! It indeed feels proud to see your name & INDIA against the world record. Well done,” former shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who took Silver at the 2004 Olympics, tweeted.
“Many congratulations #NeerajChopra on winning Gold in Javelin at IAAF U-20 World Championships. It’s indeed a proud moment for Ind. Keep it up,” former India batsman V.V.S. Laxman wrote on his official Twitter handle.
“Way to go #NeerajChopra. Gold medal in Javelin at U20 World Championship. Heartiest congratulations. Keep the Tricolor flying high,” current India opener Shikhar Dhawan said.