The Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra created history by becoming the first Indian athlete to become a world champion at any level when he won a gold medal at the U-20 World Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, on Saturday (23rd July). He created a new U-20 world record by throwing the javelin a distance of 86.48m.
The 18-year-old’s win at Bydgoszcz on Saturday is the country’s first-ever gold in a world athletics championship. He broke the old mark of 84.69 metres held by Latvian Zigismunds Sirmais by nearly two metres.
Chopra, belonging to Khandra village in Haryana’s Panipat district, also became the first Indian athlete to set a world record at any level, also bettering his previous personal best of 82.23 set at the South Asian Games earlier this year, which incidentally was the old national record. He is also ranked as the world’s best junior thrower this season.
Feeling elated after his world record performance, Chopra said, “When the spear left my hand on that second throw, I had a feeling that this was a special throw. I don’t think I expected it to go over 86 meters but since the last couple of months, I have worked hard on my fitness, my technique and it all paid off today”.
Chopra who had qualified for the final of the U-20 world championships in first position, threw the javelin to a mark of 79.66 in his first attempt, against South Africa’s Johan Grobler 80.59m. However, Neeraj then hurled the javelin a massive 86.48m in his very next throw which none of his competitors would come close to matching. Chopra threw a modest 78.36m in his third and final legitimate attempt.
The attempt puts him ahead of defending Olympic gold medalist Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago, whose best this year is 86.35m and Walcott’s Olympic winning mark of 84.58 back at the 2012 London Games.
However, the satisfaction of a world level gold is tempered by the fact that Chopra missed out on the chance of qualifying for the Rio Olympics. While his throw was far greater than the Olympic qualification standard of 83m, the last date to meet that standard was July 11, 2016.
Indeed, Chopra had been attempting to qualify for the Rio Games since the South Asian Games but had been held back by a back injury which he suffered at the Federation Cup in New Delhi in April, 2016.