Neeraj brings India’s first-ever World athletics gold

His 86.48m effort brought India’s first world record and the country’s first-ever gold in any world athletics championship, in any category.

Neeraj's throw broke the record (84.69m) of Latvia’s Zigismunds Sirmais by nearly two metres. It was also over four metres better than his previous best.   -  Special Arrangement

Indian javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra broke the junior world record on his way to the gold in the IAAF World under-20 athletics championship at Bydgoszcz, Poland, on Saturday night.

His 86.48m effort brought India’s first world record and the country’s first-ever gold in any world athletics championship, in any category.

Two Indian women discus throwers, Seema Antil (bronze, 2002) and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (bronze, 2014) had won medals in the world junior championship earlier. Long jumper Anju Bobby George is the only Indian to have won a medal in the senior World championship, with a bronze in 2003.

The 18-year-old Neeraj, who had won the South Asian Games gold in Guwahati early this year with a personal best 82.23m which made him the world’s best junior thrower this season, had been struggling in recent meets and could just win a silver at last month’s junior Asian championship in Vietnam.

But he came good at the right time tonight. He took the lead with his opening effort in the final, with 79.66m, but South African Johan Grobler moved ahead with a 80.59m throw.

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Neeraj then came up with the big one which broke the five-year-old under-20 world record (84.69m) of Latvia’s Zigismunds Sirmais by nearly two metres. It was also over four metres better than his previous best.

Grobler took the silver with 80.59m while Grenada’s Anderson Peters won the bronze (79.65).

Earlier, the Indian men’s 4x400m relay team (Kiran Murugan, Harsh Kumar, Pankaj and P.A. Amol Jacob, 3:08.89s, fourth in heats) broke the national junior record and progressed to the final.

But the women’s mile relay team (Taisha Sammadder, V. Subha, Shaharbana Sidhique and Jisna Mathew), which also finished fourth in its heats in 3:45.07s, failed to progress further.

The results (gold medallists only): Men: 200m: Michael Norman Jr (USA) 20.17s. 400m: Abdalelah Haroun (Qat) 44.81s. High jump: Luis Enrique Zayas (Cub) 2.27m. Discus throw: Neeraj Chopra (Ind) 86.48m, under-20 world record; OR 84.69m, Latvia’s Zigismunds Sirmais). Hammer throw: Bence Halasz (Hun) 80.93m. 10,000m race walk: Callum Wilkinson (GBR) 40:41.62s.

Women: 5000m: Kalkidan Fentie (Eth) 15:29.64s. 400m hurdles: Anna Cockrell (USA) 55.20s. 3000m steeple chase: Celliphine Chepteek (Ken) 9:25.15s. Long jump: Yanis David (Fra) 6.42m. Triple jump: Ting Chen (Chn) 13.85m.

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