Neeraj fought his way out of Rio misery

The Olympic gates have now closed and Neeraj, who failed to make the cut, will not figure in Rio next month. But that also freed up his troubled mind, eased the tension and made him set some new goals too.

Neeraj Kumar, a farmer’s son from Khandra village in Panipet in Haryana, is clearly the most talented thrower the country has ever produced.   -  Getty Images

There was clearly a note of desperation and pain when one spoke to javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra last month. The days were flying fast, the July 11 deadline to qualify for the Rio Olympics was fast approaching but unfortunately, the young javelin thrower’s form was sliding worryingly.

For someone like Neeraj, the Olympics qualifying mark should have been a mere formality after his world-leading junior mark of 82.23m which fetched him the South Asian Games gold in Guwahati in February. But the burden of Rio appeared to be weighing him down as his throws began to slip into the mid-seventies.

To make matters worse, it was also a phase when his shoulder began to ache and the frequent travel for qualifying meets – four countries: Germany, Poland, Belgium and Vietnam in about 20 days – did not allow him enough time to rest.

The Olympic gates have now closed and Neeraj, who failed to make the cut, will not figure in Rio next month. But that also freed up his troubled mind, eased the tension and made him set some new goals too.

The determination to fight his way out of his misery could have been the big reason behind the 18-year-old’s sensational second throw that broke the junior world record and brought Neeraj the IAAF World under-20 championship gold, India’s first at any level in a world athletics championship, at Bydgoszcz in Poland, on Saturday night.

“When the javelin left my hand, I had a feeling that my second throw would be a special one but the world record was a big surprise,” said Neeraj. “But I expected the gold.”

Wishes from PM, Rs 10 lakh from Sports Minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to fete the young man. “Congratulations Neeraj for the outstanding sporting accomplishment,” the PM wrote on his twitter handle.

Meanwhile, the Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel announced a cash award of Rs 10 lakh for Neeraj while congratulating him.

For sure, it is a historic feat and Neeraj’s throw of 86.48m which has helped India take a giant leap forward, should also open up a new world for its athletes.

This is a land where Indians have never been before and should give our athletes, young and seasoned, a new confidence that they can break world records and win World championship golds too.

Neeraj, a farmer’s son from Khandra village in Panipet in Haryana who is coached by Australian Garry Calvert, is clearly the most talented thrower the country has ever produced. And his huge throw, which chased away the Indian senior national record, also made him the eighth best thrower in the world this season.

Better than London Games' golden throw

The triumphant throw at Poland was also far better than the gold-winning effort of 2012 London Olympic champion, Trinadad and Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott (84.58m). Walcott, incidentally, had won the World junior gold that same year with 78.64m.

That should see an interesting debate among athletics buffs in the country who will now be wondering what would have happened if the youngster had made it to Rio too.

‘90-plus range within a year’

“He should be in the 90-plus range within a year,” said Radhakrishnan Nair, the deputy chief national coach, on Sunday. That should be better than Chinese Qinggang Zhou’s Asian record of 89.15 which came at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.

Incidentally Neeraj took to sport with cricket but he was often teased by his friends while bowling. Cicket’s loss is clearly athletics’ big gain.

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