Neeraj Chopra roars as the javelin is expelled from his right arm. The eight foot long steel-tipped aluminium Nordic Valhalla screams skyward. Torqued by the Indians arm, its fluorescent green tail wiggles angrily like a hissing viper. For a moment, its trajectory takes it high enough that it disappears into the black sky above the Nemzeti Atletikai Kozpont in Budapest. Then you see it again as it begins its descent.
It sails over the dotted white arc that marks 80 meters from where the Indian stands.
There’s no arc that marks immortality. That’s where it lands. 88.17m.
The Indian is still roaring. He turns around to the stands where the people are screaming. Others are crying. The 25-year-old has a wide grin. He holds his arms aloft as he waits for the digital scoreboard to tell him what he already knows. The measurement comes in but it’s just a detail at this point.
The throw is more than enough. It ticks that final box in his staggering list of accomplishments. Neeraj Chopra is now World Champion. It’s not that he needed the affirmation. The 25-year-old from Haryana is already an Olympic champion. He’s already the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medallist. He had already become the first Indian man to win a world medal when he took silver at the Eugene World Championships behind Grenada’s Anderson Peters last year. He is already arguably the greatest Indian athlete of all time. What’s a world title but just an underline for emphasis at this point. It’s a treasure trove that anyone would be grateful for.
Not the Indian. He doesn’t have the slightest bit of impurity in his treasure cabinet now. It’s all 24 carat.
The Indian is perfect. He’s needed to be.
Coming into Budapest, he was undefeated this season. But he’s only competed twice after suffering a groin injury after the first time. Two other throwers – Jakub Vadlejch and Julian Weber - have thrown better. Oliver Helander, with an 89.93m personal best, is here too. Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem – a freak of a natural talent - is here too. He won the Commonwealth title last year with a throw of 90.18m – beating the Indian he admitted admiring to the magical 90m mark. Here in Budapest, Arshad had made a statement of intent with an effortless throw of 86.79m in qualifying.
Neeraj had done better with 88.77m but he might have felt Nadeem breathing down his neck.
He would have felt the heat on Sunday night too. He starts with a foul. It’s about 75m. Not enough for his standard and he steps over the foul line. The next one is good - 88.17m.
On Sunday night, Neeraj breaks free of them all. Peters, the champion from last year, is left behind in qualification. The rest will bend the knee in the final. Vadlejch finishes with 86.67m. Weber with 85.79m. Nadeem the closest with 87.82m.
They try their best. They are good. Neeraj, with his Nordic Valhalla flying where he wills, is great. He’s better than great. In Nordic mythology, Vallhalla is home of the Gods. At Budapest, the Indian is one too.
Manu, Jena finish in top six
Kishore Jena and DP Manu, the other two Indians in the final, came up with creditable performances.
Jena threw a personal best of 84.77m and finished fifth, while Manu had a mark of 84.14m and finished sixth.
India finishes fifth in Men’s 4x400m relay final
After setting a National Record in the heats to qualify for the final, the Indian quartet of Muhammed Anas, Amoj Jacob, Muhammed Ajmal and Rajesh Ramesh did not disappoint as they finished fifth behind USA, France, Great Britain and Jamaica with a timing of 2:59.92s.
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