Tokyo Games 2020

Neeraj Chopra wins gold in javelin throw – India’s first ever Olympic medal in a track and field event

Published : August 07, 2021 20:24 IST

India's Neeraj Chopra holds his gold medal after winning in the final of the men's javelin throw event at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: PTI Photo/Gurinder Osan

For the first time in the history of independent India has an athlete won an Olympic medal in any track and field event.

On August 8, Indian sporting history was made in Tokyo when Neeraj Chopra, India’s javelin star, became the first Indian to win gold in a track and field event at the Olympics. With a best attempt of 87.58 m, the 23-year-old from Haryana beat the Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch’s best of 86.67, and Vitezslav Vesely’s (also Czech) 85.44 m. For the first time in the history of independent India has an athlete won any medal in any track and field event, though legends like Milkha Singh and P T Usha had come close in the past.

Chopra, who had come to the Olympics with a strong chance of winning a medal, was leading right from the start. In his second attempt itself he had thrown 87.58 m, and none of the other competitors could cross 87 m. In his first attempt too, Chopra had thrown 87.03 m. Vadlejch’s best of 86.67 came in his fifth attempt, and his final attempt was a foul. Chopra’s sixth and final throw (84.24 m) was just a formality as Vadlejch and Vesely had both committed fouls earlier in their final attempts, and he had already won the gold.

Interestingly, the German Johannes Vetter, who was the overwhelming favourite to win the gold could not make it past the first three rounds. In javelin throw, after the first three rounds, the top eight contend for the medals. Vetter ended up in the ninth position. Vetter, who has a personal best of 97.76 m, could only manage 82.52 m this time.

Chopra’s gold medal winning effort was still not his personal best. In March this year, he had set a new national record of 88.07 m, breaking his earlier record of 88.06 m at the 2018 Asian Games.

Born on December 24, 1997, in Haryana’s Khandra village, Chopra took up javelin throw at the age of 12. He won the gold at the Asian Athletics Championships in 2017, and the gold at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games of 2018. He also broke the Junior World Record in 2016 with a throw of 86.48 m.

Chopra is only the second Indian to win an individual gold in the Olympics after Abhinav Bindra, who won it for Shooting in the 2008 Olympics. Reacting to his win, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on social media, “History has been scripted at Tokyo! What @Neeraj_chopra1 has achieved today will be remembered forever. The young Neeraj has done exceptionally well. He played with remarkable passion and showed unparalleled grit. Congratulations to him for winning the Gold.”

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